How to Grow Buckwheat

Learn how to grow buckwheat, an easy to grow grain even in poor soil, along with cooking applications and a brief history on this high-quality protein food.


| May/June 1986



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Buckwheat is one of the best sources of high quality protein in the plant kingdom. It's easy to grow, harvest, and process; it prospers on soils too poor for other crops; and it's not susceptible to any major disease or pest problems.

PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Buckwheat is easy to grow — in fact, it's unequaled at growing on poor soil . . . cut the stems with grass shears when about three-quarters of the seeds have turned brown. Threshing the seeds is fun: Just lay the stalks on a clean sheet and beat them with a broom!

Buckwheat is one of the best sources of high quality protein in the plant kingdom. It's easy to grow, harvest, and process; it prospers on soils too poor for other crops; and it's not susceptible to any major disease or pest problems. On top of all that, buckwheat is an excellent smother crop for weed control, a superb green manure crop, and a legendary nectar source for honeybees.

Yet few gardeners use it! In all the years we've planted buckwheat for bread and pancake flour, we've never heard of any other gardener raising the crop. So this article explaining how to grow buckwheat is our chance to speak up for an old friend, one that has served us faithfully . . . providing fine flavor and wholesome nutrition while asking for just a little care in return. We think buckwheat is the backyard grain you can bring in a usable harvest from as little as 40 square feet! It well deserves a place in American gardens.

A Bit About How to Grow Buckwheat

Some guidelines on how to grow buckwheat: This quick-blooming crop doesn't like hot, dry weather and is produced commercially only in the northern states. Still, while high temperatures — particularly at night can reduce yields by causing flowers to "blast" (fall off without forming seed), buckwheat's long period of bloom.generally ensures at least a moderate crop even when it's planted as far south as Tennessee. At our location in south central Kentucky, we've experienced some losses in August heat, but these have been followed by excellent seed formation during cooler periods in September.

Buckwheat is also quite tolerant of acidic conditions — there's little to be gained by adding lime to the soil. What's more, soluble nitrogen fertilizer is definitely not recommended for buckwheat, because it can cause the plant to favor vegetative, rather than seed, growth. However, buckwheat does respond well to nutrients supplied by the natural breakdown of organic materials. Winter cover crops such as rye and hairy vetch plowed under as green manure are excellent for maintaining soil fertility where buckwheat is grown.

Who Has the Buckwheat Varieties?

Unfortunately, seed of the few good buckwheat varieties can be quite difficult to locate. Most likely, your local farm supply store can provide you with "common" buckwheat, which is OK but nothing special. The same goes for the few mail-order houses selling buckwheat seed.

tharrinne
2/25/2016 6:16:06 PM

Buckwhat was so commonly grown in Quebec and Ontario at some point in the '80s, our "treat" was buckwheat pancakes. I inherited a buckweat recipe book! Past Montreal, QC - they still have a buckwheat festival (http://www.festivalsarrasin.com/). Stan, if you're reading this: you likely could find growers in the province of quebec. We call buckwheat "sarrasin" in french, so you should be able to find something if you haven't yet.


colin
12/1/2015 3:23:39 PM

How far apart do I need to plant buckwheat seedlings in my garden? How big do they grow?


stan
4/2/2015 3:05:57 PM

I came to Canada from Eastern Europe where roasted buckwheat kernel is cheap ad easily accessible. Considering large population of Ukrainians farming in Saskatchewan and Manitoba I thought it will be easy to get buckwheat here. When I ordered organic buckwheat from local distributor in British Columbia I was shocked upon delivery. Product came from China, through some California based middle man company. anyone who knows where to get roasted (what a difference) buckwheat please let me know by posting it here. Love this magazine Stan


darme
11/17/2014 8:47:16 PM

Hi it is amazing to read about nutritional values of buckwheat and how simple and easy to grow it I live in Auckland New Zealand Wondering from where I can get some seeds for planting buckwheat Thank you for reply


mark shepherd
9/4/2012 1:34:12 PM

Thanks for a great resource. Do you have a recipe or ratio for the homemade buckwheat noodles? Thanks.


joseph
5/5/2012 4:49:21 PM

I live in Michigan and have a weed problem in my garden that is at best daunting. I planted this in the open area of my garden last year and it grew quick without effort. I left it in to reseed and it was the first thing to come up ghis year. I can't wait to harvest this along with my millet wheat rye and amaranth this year.


lori mani
3/24/2012 4:21:04 PM

Try Johnny's Selected Seeds. They are an excellent resource for small farm grains. The buckwheat is sold with over 14,000 seeds per pound!


dorothy swanson
3/24/2012 3:36:02 PM

Where do you purchase buckwheat seed? We want to use it not only as a cover crop, but more especially to harvest the groats. Thank you for your help!


caryn_5
3/29/2009 11:52:57 AM

Thanks for the informative article about growing Buckwheat. I think we will give it a go this year, after the peas as you suggested. We have a little boy with Celiac at our house and Buckwheat is a good alternative grain. Caryn






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