More on the great buckwheat panic of 2010

Buckwheat packets
Stop press: Luigi remembered a photo he had taken 18 months ago.
A month or so after The Guardian first told us about the buckwheat crisis in Russia, Radio Free Europe does a big number on the subject. There’s lots of good stuff in there about buckwheat and the part it plays in national diets and psyches. On the nutrition front, one of the things I remember reading is that although buckwheat is low in protein that protein contains a near-perfect balance of amino acids essential to humans. Unlike most true cereals, it is particularly high in lysine. That balance means that our bodies can make good use of all the nutrition buckwheat supplies in one meal, unlike needing, say, a pulse to make up for cereals’ lack of lysine. And that, as I recall, is why buckwheat is so satisfying and keeps hunger at bay for so long.

What really caught my eye in the article was this:

“It is believed that it was brought to Russia and further to Eastern Europe by Mongol Tatar invaders who first invaded China and knew what buckwheat was. In the Czech Republic for instance, it is called ‘pohanka’ — which means pagan or pagan’s food.”

The English name is supposedly derived from beech, whose seeds buckwheat’s resemble in miniature. But in Italian? Grano Saraceno. How about other languages?

3 Replies to “More on the great buckwheat panic of 2010”

  1. The Fagopyrum common name in Portuguese and Spanish is “Trigo sarraceno” or “Trigo mourisco,” meaning “Saracen wheat” or “Moor wheat.” I guess because it was the Arabs (Moors) who introduced it to the Iberian Peninsula. After all, Fagopyrum originated in the Near East Region, except for the species F. tataricum that originated in East Asia. Long ago it was used in Portugal as forage.

  2. In Russian, buckwheat is called ‘grechka’, it was brought by Greeks via Black Sea trade routes. It has nothing to do with Tatars, who were nomads and had no interests in distributing cereals.

    Such myths are created without thinking, which is ridiculous.

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