Growing buckwheat to fill our pillows

Field of buckwheat in Brazil

A field of buckwheat in flower. Image source

The buckwheat hulls that fill our pillows is in the western US by a cooperative of farmers. Buckwheat is a relatively minor crop in the US in comparison to corn, soybeans or wheat. Most of the buckwheat grown in the US is exported to Japan, where it is made into soba noodles. Buckwheat flour and groats are becoming more popular in American cuisine because buckwheat is high in protein and lacks gluten. Read here for more of fabulousness that buckwheat has for your diet.

To a farmer, buckwheat is a wonderful crop - not because of the grains themselves, but because the plant offers so much to the ecosystem. Buckwheat is a fast growing plant that can mature just ten weeks after being planted. Broad, heart-shaped leaves quickly unfold providing a closed canopy. Without light, any weed seeds in the soil below cannot sprout. Since buckwheat plant growth naturally keeps the weeds at bay, buckwheat crops do not need to be sprayed with herbicide. 

Buckwheat is often used as a cover crop if a crop fails, or prior to a cash crop because it is so fast growing and can tolerate rough soil conditions. After being planted it doesn't need any care - no fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides. Below ground, buckwheat improves soil quality by making essential nutrients available for the next crop and introduces organic matter into the soil. Above ground, prolific flowers provide pollen for beneficial insects. Honey produced by bees working in buckwheat fields is dark, with a distinctive flavor that's revered by bee keepers.

The buckwheat we use is not certified as organically grown because organic certification is an onerous and expensive process for the producers. Since no chemicals are used, not even organically certified ones, is beneficial for the whole environment. We feel that the buckwheat we use to fill our pillows is ecologically sound because of the nature of the crop.

March 19, 2015 by Claire Collie
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