Yes, this article is partly due to my taking a break from my Keto Diet. I’m having some grains and spuds as a break.
I’m about 5 pounds from my goal weight, and want to slow down the loss for just a bit to stabilize things, then approach more slowly the end game.
So, first I had a bowl of Buckwheat yesterday and the day before. Right now, I’m having a bowl of rolled barley flakes.
I got the buckwheat some long time ago at, IIRC, Safeway grocery store. The rolled barley was bought just today for 89 ¢ / lb. at Smart & Final. A trip to Whole Foods yesterday had shown that under Amazon ownership prices had been raised even more. The Mocha at the coffee bar was now $4.50 for a “medium” where before I think it was $2.75 or maybe $3. The “large” was all of 50 ¢ more at $5 so I bought that. At the “stuff in bins” department, what had been priced at $1 or $2 was now $3 or more. I skipped their Buckwheat and Pearled Barley, and today went to Smart & Final at much better prices.
If you’ve not had Buckwheat or Barley, they are very good foods. More on that below.
I’ll take them in reverse order. At Smart & Final they were out of Pearled Barley (barley with the husk polished off). Barley is “special” in that fiber runs through the whole grain. This makes it a bit more chewy, slower to cook, great in soups as it doesn’t turn to mush, and slows the rate of starch breakdown / sugars into the blood. Barley is one of my favourite grains, and I’m sad to see folks using it less in cooking.
Barley has been cultivated for at least 10,000 years and there are dozens of cultivated types. 2 row has lower protein content and is used in brewing. 6 row has more protein and is better in animal or human food.
I’d been making Ramen by pouring boiling water over a ramen cup and just waiting several minutes while the noodles “cooked” and softened, absorbing water. Having a bunch of ramen cups or packets in your “food storage system” is one of THE easiest and cheapest ways to get a decent quantity of food stored, shelf stable for a very long time, with almost no effort. A meal of one packet can be as low as 25 ¢. Just buy it (about $3 for a case of 12 here) and stack them up. I’d also done a modified cook on the buckwheat to reduce fuel burn and it was fine. So I decided to try a “minimal fuel” cook on the rolled barley flakes.
I warmed the 16 ounce thermos with hot tap water, I dumped 1/3 cup of flakes into a sauce pan, then put 2/3 cup of water over them. Shake or two of salt, and put it on the propane camp stove burner. A couple of minutes later it is simmering / boiling, and I poured the whole works into the (now drained) Thermos and capped it. Off to the terminal for about 10 minutes as it cooked.
On returning, the cap mad quite a WHOOSH sound when I opened it. It would be better to NOT tighten down the cap for a minute as the air in the Thermos warms. I had pressurized it with the rapid closure. No harm though. A Tbs. of butter to the cereal bowl, dump the thermos over it (now filled with fat, rehydrated and cooked “flakes” / rolled barley), about a tsp of sugar sprinkled over it, and then about an ounce or two of milk.
The result was a very tasty and fully cooked bowl of Barley Porridge. Total fuel burn was very low. No long 5 to 10 minutes of simmering needed here.
Rolled Barley Flakes make a porridge that is more “meaty” than oatmeal, and the flakes make a more chewy solid part. It doesn’t make the white gluey bits like oatmeal, more like a bowl of cooked grains. The flavour is mild, but interesting. Not as strong as Buckwheat or Wheat / Rye groats, but something more than oatmeal. Due to the high fibre through the whole grain / flake it tends to be slow to digest, and keeps you felling full for a good long while.
At 89 ¢ / lb. it is an extraordinary bargain as a survival / prepper food. I just pour it into 1/2 Gallon or Quart jars, screw on the lid, and it keeps for months to years. With this cooking method, the fuel used is about the same as for instant oatmeal or ramen, and just as easy to cook. It is also more satisfying to have a mouth feel with a bit more chew to it and less slop and gloppy glue texture. You can also add it to various soups, stews and more and without the long cooking time of pearled barley.
The Rolled Barley Flakes are about 2.3 ounces to the 1/2 cup, and that’s quite a bowl full. Figure a pound is good for about 7 such meals. A week of breakfasts, or barley stew lunches, for 89 ¢, hard to beat that. 4 pounds to the month. 48 lbs for an entire year of breakfasts, and about $43 for the grain. Pretty cheap insurance.
For a storage item, I’d use coconut oil instead of butter and either canned milk or powdered milk. A spoon of jam lets you change the flavour for variety, and a jar of jam will likely last at least a week, and likely a month (for larger jars). 12 jars for a year supply. I’d not feel deprived with that as my breakfast, or with some stirred into a bit of lentil stew with canned chicken added. In fact, I like having barley or oats as one of my regular daily meals, even in good times.
I don’t remember the price. At Whole Foods they wanted something ridiculous like $2.50 / lb. You ought to be able to find it down around $1 / pound. These are whole seeds with the outer husk removed, but with the light tan / brownish skin still in place. Buckwheat has a slightly nutty like flavour in cooking. It is NOT a grass, so folks with allergies to wheat or other grasses typically can have buckwheat without issues.
It can also be made into a flour and used to make things like Buckwheat Pancakes. Common when I was a kid, I’ve not been able to find a box of mix anywhere this week. You can make your own pancake mix, simply by swapping Buckwheat Flour for Wheat Flour. Typical recipes use 50:50 of each. Various other cultures make it into noodles. Tibet (as it grows very high up the mountains) and Japan for their Soba noodles. You can get Soba Noodles at any decent Asian market or Japanese speciality stores. They add a richness to noodle dishes that rice noodles and wheat noodles just can’t match.
I like to just cook the groats and treat it like I do for oatmeal or the barley flakes. Pat of butter, sprinkle of sugar, and dash of milk to moisten.
Normal cooking directions say to bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or so. It cooks a lot like rice, with a long slow simmer as the water is absorbed. Roasted buckwheat, called Kasha, cooks faster and has a stronger flavor. Raw buckwheat tends to make a froth when cooking and that can foam up and overflow the pot. Like rice, cooked to completion it can have a layer that sticks to the bottom of the pot. I suspect that rinsing well might reduce the froth (but wastes water in an emergency situation, so I was testing without that – it still cooks and tastes fine). So how to cut cooking time?
Cooking this on a Propane Single Burner stove, it was hard to get the simmer low enough to not froth up and boil too fast. I did it, but it required tending. I used a Visions glass saucepan so I could watch what was happening. That’s what gave me the idea.
I boiled it for about 3 minutes, then shut it off for 7. Brought it back to the simmer, then shut it off again.
It was fully cooked after the next 7 minute rest. NOTHING sticking to the bottom. No froth overflow issues. It just works fine and with far less fuel used and a lot less fiddling with the fuel valve.
In a few days, I’ll try cooking it in the thermos too. It ought to work as well as the rolled barley did.
There’s an enormous number of ways to use Buckwheat. Even just sprinkled (cooked!) over a salad. It also has some of the highest altitude, shortest growing season of just about anything “grain like”. I’m especially fond of the flavour of it, just in a bowl.
The Wiki has some interesting bits about the nutrition in it.
The oldest remains found in China so far date to circa 2600 BCE, while buckwheat pollen found in Japan dates from as early as 4000 BCE. It is the world’s highest-elevation domesticate, being cultivated in Yunnan on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau or on the plateau itself.
It doesn’t need as much fertilizer or special ground as wheat or corn, and as noted it grows well at very high altitudes and in cold short seasons.
Buckwheat, a short-season crop, does well on low-fertility or acidic soils, but the soil must be well drained. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, reduces yields. In hot climates it can be grown only by sowing late in the season, so that it blooms in cooler weather. The presence of pollinators greatly increases the yield. The nectar from buckwheat flower makes a dark-colored honey. Buckwheat is sometimes used as a green manure, as a plant for erosion control, or as wildlife cover and feed.
The plant has a branching root system with a primary taproot that reaches deeply into moist soil. Buckwheat has triangular seeds and produces a flower that is usually white, although can also be pink or yellow. Buckwheat branches freely, as opposed to tillering or producing suckers, causing a more complete adaption to its environment than other cereal crops. The seed hull density is less than that of water, making the hull easy to remove.
Buckwheat is raised for grain where a short season is available, either because it is used as a second crop in the season, or because the climate is limiting. Buckwheat can be a reliable cover crop in summer to fit a small slot of warm season. It establishes quickly, which suppresses summer weeds. Buckwheat has a growing period of only 10–12 weeks and it can be grown in high latitude or northern areas. It grows 30 to 50 inches (75 to 125 cm) tall.
Buckwheat Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,435 kJ (343 kcal)
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
71–78% in groats
70–91% in different types of flour
Starch is 25% amylose and 75% amylopectin.
Depending on hydrothermal treatment, buckwheat groats contain 7–37% of resistant starch.
Crude protein is 18%, with biological values above 90%. This can be explained by a high concentration of all essential amino acids, especially lysine, threonine, tryptophan, and the sulphur-containing amino acids.
Rich in iron (60–100 ppm), zinc (20–30 ppm) and selenium (20–50 ppb)
Yes, you can get ALL the essential amion acids in one package.
It isn’t all a free ride, though. There’s compounds in it that cause reactions in some folks, so be careful with your first bowl:
Cases of severe allergic reactions to buckwheat and buckwheat-containing products have been reported.
Buckwheat contains fluorescent phototoxic fagopyrins. Seeds, flour, and teas are generally safe when consumed in normal amounts, but fagopyrism can appear in people with diets based on high consumption of buckwheat sprouts, and particularly flowers or fagopyrin-rich buckwheat extracts. Symptoms of fagopyrism in humans may include skin inflammation in sunlight-exposed areas, cold sensitivity, and tingling or numbness in the hands.
Given that, I don’t know why so many folks like to sprout their buckwheat.
It’s very easy to pour a few pounds of barley flakes or buckwheat groats into a jar and put the lid on it. Then it keeps for years, is very easy to cook, makes a pleasant filling meal with only minor adjuncts, and you can add the stuff to all sorts of other foods as an extender. I’ve even made pan drippings into gravy and just poured it over the cooked grains. Why waste the oil and other bits in a frying pan if you can capture it as gravy?
So if you’ve not tried it, consider Rolled Barley Flakes and Buckwheat as a couple of alternatives to add to your Prepper Pantry. Quicker, easier and less fuss to cook that hard red winter wheat. Not as prone to making glop as oatmeal mixes. Versatile for extending Mystery Stews & Soups. In my opinion, well worth the effort to familiarize yourself with them.