Buckwheat has been grown in America since colonial days. The crop was common on farms in the north eastern and north central United States. Production reached a peak in 1866 at which time the grain was a common livestock-feed and in demand for making flour. By the mid 1960's the acreage had declined to about 50,000 acres. The leading buckwheat states are New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Canada has more buckwheat acreage than the United States.
Buckwheat enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the mid 1970's that was brought on by the demand for commercially prepared breakfast cereal and by exports to Japan for making buckwheat noodles. This boom was due to the nutritional excellence of buckwheat. USDA-ARS analyses indicate that the grain has an amino acid composition nutritionally superior to all cereals, including oats. Buckwheat protein is particularly rich (6%) in the limiting amino acid lysine .
Energizing and nutritious, buckwheat is available throughout the year and can be served as an alternative to rice or made into porridge.
While many people think that buckwheat is a cereal grain, it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel making it a suitable substitute for grains for people who are sensitive to wheat or other grains that contain protein glutens. Buckwheat flowers are very fragrant and are attractive to bees that use them to produce a special, strongly flavored, dark honey.
Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The Yi people of China consume a diet high in buckwheat (100 grams per day or about 3.5 ounces). When researchers tested blood lipids of 805 Yi Chinese, they found that buckwheat intake was associated with lower total serum cholesterol, lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-the form linked to cardiovascular disease), and a high ratio of HDL (health-promoting cholesterol) to total cholesterol.
Buckwheat also contains almost 86 milligrams of magnesium in a one-cup serving. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and nutrient delivery while lowering blood pressure-the perfect combination for a healthy cardiovascular system.