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The Wheat That Is Not a Wheat

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The GF trend is big these days -- for the uninitiated, that's "gluten-free." If you're going gluten-free or simply looking to cut back on gluten, rice and potato flour can get a little dull -- enter buckwheat. It's one of my favorite variations on crepes (or pancakes if thick's your thing) and though I'm not a big muffin eater (or maker), I've had buckwheat muffins and I'm a believer.

It doesn't contain gluten in part because it's not a cereal grain -- it's a seed that's related to rhubarb. It's gritty and nutty and your mouth registers "healthy" the moment it sets foot inside. Even the color of the flour (an earthy brown) says "good for you" like no other.

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It's been popular for a long time in cold regions such as Northern France -- Brittany (savory buckwheat crepes are their speciality), Russia (the little pancakes known as blinis were traditionally made with buckwheat), and Northern China -- later introduced to Japan, (soba noodles).

Advantages Over Whole Wheat

  • No gluten
  • Complete protein (This means that it contains all nine essential amino acids. Animal products are "complete" but it's rare for vegetable products to be. Wheat flour for example is lacking the amino acid lysine which buckwheat contains.)
  • Tastes great (nutty and earthy)
  • More filling (This may be a plus or minus depending what you're going for.)

Disadvantages Over Whole Wheat

  • Drier and heavier (because there's no gluten) so it's often combined with other flour when baking. (If you're buying buckwheat pancake mix, check the ingredients to be sure wheat flour has not been added -- same with soba noodles.)
  • Spoils easily (because it has double the oil content of wheat flour) so keep it in the fridge or freezer.

These days it's no longer relegated to the health-food shops -- it's likely your local supermarket carries it, so grab a bag and get to know this deliciously gluten-free "grain."

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For the crepe recipe shown in the image, click here.

Michelle Madden writes the award-nominated food blog, The Sweet Beet. See how you can win a $550 KitchenAid stand-mixer!

Photos by Michelle Madden.