home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Fagopyrum esculentum (Buckwheat)

Bokwiet [Afrikaans]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Core Eudicots > Order: Caryophyllales > Family: Polygonaceae

Buckwheat is not a grass but a member of the rhubarb family (Polygonaceae). It contains high quality protein and it reduces blood cholesterol. It is grown to some extent in southern Africa as a fodder crop but is becoming increasingly popular as a health food. 

Despite its name, buckwheat is entirely unrelated to wheat - it falls in the rhubarb family (Polygonaceae) whereas wheat is in the grass family (Poaceae). It is so named because its dry seed-like fruit are consumed like cereal grains. Buckwheat originates from Central or Northern Asia and has been domesticated as a crop that is now grown worldwide.  

Buckwheat has a number of worthy nutritional characteristics:

  • protein quality is higher than that of soy, wheat, brown rice and oats;
  • buckwheat bran contains a flavonoid called rutin that helps in managing blood cholesterol levels; and
  • it contains fagopyritols which evidently have a favourable influence on blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. 

Buckwheat is produced in the following forms:

  • Buckwheat flour. There are two main types: 'supreme buckwheat' flour is from ground-up whole buckwheat kernels whereas 'fancy buckwheat' flour is from ground-up hulled (i.e. outer bran layer removed) buckwheat kernels. The low gluten levels in buckwheat flour mean that it does not rise in baking. It is often added to other types of flour because of its favourable nutritional characteristics. In the USA it is often used in pancake mixtures. 
  • Buckwheat bran. The outer layer of the kernel contains bran. Farinetta is a substance made from such bran.
  • Buckwheat groats. Crushed buckwheat kernels that have first had their outer covering removed. Groats are roasted and fried with beaten egg white with water added later to produce 'kasha', a term that originates from East European countries. 

Buckwheat is grown to some extent in southern Africa as a fodder crop but is becoming increasingly popular as a health food. 


  • Anon. 2002. Encyclopedia of Foods. A Guide to Healthy Nutrition. Academic Press, San Diego, California.