For these within the know, Bouchard Household Farms is the place to go if you want Tartary flour for making French-Canadian pancakes and crepes or Japanese soba noodles. For 30-plus years, the household farm, perched on the tippy high of Maine, has grown Tartary buckwheat and milled it into flour. Through the years, thanks partially to a rising demand for gluten-free meals and curiosity in various flours, it has created a marketplace for buckwheat as each a meals and canopy crop. Beginning to develop it, although, was a danger taken out of necessity.
When Joe Bouchard first planted buckwheat within the Eighties, he did it as a result of he needed to diversify. For practically six generations, the farm had grown potatoes and grains equivalent to oats, however as the value of potatoes declined partially attributable to abroad competitors, the farm wanted to create new revenue streams. That’s when it launched Tartary buckwheat—on the time, a comparatively unknown and unused product—to the fields.
“We needed to do numerous meals exhibits to get the phrase out,” remembers Bouchard. “It was fairly troublesome, however then once more, every thing you do is troublesome.”
Regardless of its identify, buckwheat doesn’t comprise wheat; it’s not even a grain. Gluten-free, it’s thought-about a pseudocereal, that are seeds consumed as cereal grains (equivalent to quinoa and amaranth) that don’t develop on grasses. It has a nutty, earthy taste that, together with its gluten-free trait, makes it widespread amongst bakers.
Buckwheat originated in China and unfold worldwide, turning into a vital ingredient for soba noodles, kasha, galettes and extra. Within the late 1800s, it was extremely widespread each for making flour and animal feed. However because the agricultural system industrialized, the pseudograin fell out of favor—that’s, till now.
As we speak, there are two predominant sorts of buckwheat grown: the Tartary buckwheat that Bouchard Household Farms grows and customary buckwheat. Whereas each varieties are comparable, Tartary is self-fertile and grows properly in chilly climates, whereas widespread buckwheat requires pollination to breed and prefers temperate climates. Tartary buckwheat can also be extra bitter than widespread buckwheat, and it’s seeing a resurgence of use in crop rotation, which might help construct soil well being.
“Farmers adore it as a short-season, quick-growing cowl crop,” says Tom Molloy, an agronomist with the College of Maine Cooperative Extension. “It’s pretty quick rising and it’s aggressive with weeds.”
Buckwheat additionally reportedly takes up phosphorus, a essential nutrient for plant progress, after which releases the vitamins off which later crops thrive. Whereas phosphorus happens naturally within the soil, farmers add it to the soil to extend soil well being and yield, and like many agricultural inputs, it is turning into tougher to acquire.
Karen and Steve Getz fell in love with buckwheat in San Jose, California’s Japantown, the place soba noodles are made from historic grain. Karen, who has a background as a baker and cheesemaker, and Steve, who labored for Natural Valley, needed to create a product utilizing buckwheat. But, it wasn’t till they met farmers cultivating Tartary buckwheat in Aroostook County that the pair determined to relocate to Maine to stay out their dream of making Maine Crisps, a line of buckwheat crisps.
“After I was up in Maine’s most Northern Nation and I noticed the buckwheat rising, every thing got here collectively,” says Karen. “I may mix my love of baking and buckwheat to make one thing that may be protected for individuals with celiac illness or a gluten sensitivity to eat whereas supporting our native farm neighborhood.”
Regardless of its current resurgence, buckwheat has but to hit the mainstream. The Getzes get all of their buckwheat from the Bouchard Household Farms, partially as a result of the farm can also be capable of mill the buckwheat in its licensed gluten-free mill, however they imagine within the crop’s potential.
“Buckwheat is a superb crop since you get two crops out of it actually—the buckwheat seed itself but in addition its flowers and, when it’s in bloom, earlier than these flowers flip right into a seed, [it’s where] you get buckwheat honey from,” says Karen.
All through Maine, Molloy is seeing regular progress of buckwheat as a canopy crop plant, and the Cooperative Extension is encouraging some growers to strive it out as a cereal. They’ve seen success with buckwheat reducing again on weeds and illnesses when growers of different cereal crops plant it in rotation. The problem that also exists helps farmers decide when buckwheat is able to harvest; not like different crops that dry out earlier than harvest, buckwheat ought to nonetheless be inexperienced when harvested.
“We hope it’s going to extend; we now have to proceed to promote it,” says Bouchard, who, along with Maine Crisps, sells his buckwheat to supermarkets and different shops, in addition to a great deal of direct-to-consumer delivery.
Because the buckwheat resurgence positive factors momentum in Maine, farmers in different states are taking discover, with farmers in New York engaged on buckwheat with the Cornell Cooperative Extension and growers from Ohio to Missouri additionally experimenting with the crop.