Buckwheat value chain for the milling industry

  • vegetazione

    beginning of vegetation

  • maturazione

    ripening

  • pronto per la trebbiatura

    ready for harvesting

  • trebbiatura

    harvesting the grains

  • acheni

    grainsi

  • produzione

    production

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is a pseudocereal belonging to the polygonaceae family. It is an optimal source of proteins of high biological value (rich in lysine, an essential amino acid which is deficient in many cereals) fibre and minerals (especially magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, iron), group B vitamins and vitamin E. Moreover it is low in saturated fat. Buckwheat is gluten-free and therefore suitable for celiac and gluten allergic subjects. From an agronomic point of view, buckwheat is a low-maintenance crop, that improves soil fertility. It is sensitive to high temperatures in particular during flowering. These days, in Italy, although a demand exists deriving from the use of its flour for typical products such as the polenta taragna, the pizzoccheri of Valtellina and for GLUTEN-FREE products, the number of cultivated hectares is so minute that it is not even registered by the Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT).

However, the interest in this crop is growing and few projects exist intending to reintroduce buckwheat in Italy; buckwheat from Valtellina (SO, Italy) has become a Slow Food presidium and a recent project from INRAN (National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition, Rome, Italy) aims at obtaining good quality productions in the Garfagnana area (LU, Italy). Globally, buckwheat flour is used for typical products amongst which couscous, crêpes de blé noir (Bretagna, France), Japanese soba (noodles), grechnevaya kasha (porridge) and Russian soups. Buckwheat honey has a deep purple colour and a rich flavour. Cina and Russia are the two major producers (see graph below), and dozen thousand hectares are cultivated in France (FAOSTAT data, 2010).

Open Fields is developing an Italian and controlled food value chain of buckwheat for the milling industry and it’s promoting its use in Italy.