I didn’t title this post “How to Mill Buckwheat,” because quite frankly, this is not how you should do it.
In fact, after this past week, my husband officially concluded that I have gone mental.
And he is probably right.
You see, if you were to grow buckwheat (which I strongly recommend for many reasons listed bellow), and make your own gluten-free buckwheat flour, you would probably want to use a grain mill like this one. Then, follow their instructions for dehulling and grinding the seed.
But what’s to me, Lady Lee, and following instructions? Absolutely nothing. I am known around the family for doing things backwards, upside down, or sideways. And I wouldn’t want to ruin the reputation I worked so hard to build, now would I?
So I went ahead and planted a whole field of buckwheat. Yeah, you read that right, I said a field.
The plan was to use the buckwheat in the compost heap and to till it under as green manure at the end of the Summer. Then, plant the field with Winter cover crops. But it didn’t happen.
Don’t ask me why. I really have no clue.
What did happen is that the buckwheat went to seed, reseeded itself, grew again, and went into seed again. At that point, it was too cold outside for the seeds that dropped to the ground to germinate, and many other seeds stayed on the stems that were still standing in the field.
I was so busy preparing the other end of the field for Spring planting that I completely ignored the buckwheat.
Until last week, that is.
I was trying to measure and mark the beds of vegetables for next year. One child was pulling the stakes out of the ground, the other was messing with the twine, while the last one was stepping all over the bed after I removed him and explained 17 million times that we DO NOT step on the vegetable beds. Can’t a one and a half year old understand the principles of soil compaction for crying out loud?!
Anyway, it was either going for a walk or having the neighbors call child services.
So we went for a walk.
And came across a field of dry buckwheat.
I am not sure what is it about kids, but they love to pick. Everything (including their noses). So we started picking those wonderful stems with the clusters of dry seeds on top and we ended up with a nice bunch of buckwheat to take home.
Even though my initial plan was to plant buckwheat as green manure this time around, I always knew I wanted to grow grains/seeds (buckwheat is a seed and not a grain. It does not contain gluten) to make my own flour. If I can grow grains for us and turn them into flour, I can, in my eyes, pretty much do anything.
OK, maybe I can’t go running naked around downtown, or drink from my nose, or say, meet the Kardashians, but seriously, who wants to do those things anyway?
Buckwheat was on the top of my list of grains/seeds to grow because…
- It grows super fast. 4 weeks to flower and another 4 weeks to seed,
- It grows in any soil,
- The bees love it. Buckwheat honey is said to be black and delicious, and one gotta help the bees if one can,
- It seeds itself,
- The flowers are beautiful,
- You can cook the seeds as a side dish just like rice (if you break them a bit, not mill them all the way into flour).
- It makes gluten free flour,
- If you pick the seeds and leave the stems in the field, you can till them under and still use the plans as green manure (let it decompose 3 weeks before replanting the area),
- Buckwheat has so much protein in it. It can be used as a substitute for meat,
- It is a great companion plant. If you have a bed of tomatoes, for example, you can plant buckwheat around the tomatoes. It will suppress weeds, and no special spacing is required.
- It is great for the digestion,
- It can help reduce blood pressure because it is a good source of magnesium,
- You can use the hulls as mulch,
- Or you can make a buckwheat pillow! (I know, crazy, right?)
And the list goes on and on and on…
So what was I going to do with all those buckwheat seeds? I wasn’t sure, but I started by separating them from the stems and cleaning them a bit. I also removed a bunch of empty seeds.
Then I started walking around the seeds like a pack of jacklas around a circled gazelle, or werewolves around vampires. Or is it vampires around werewolves? I guess it depends on if you are team Jacob or team Edward…
Anyway, I was trying to find a way to dehull those seeds. Not. An. Easy. Task.
I found someone online suggesting to put them in a blender. It didn’t work.
I went to consult my pile of old homesteading books. They suggested cracking them with rocks.
This is where my husband got a bit concerned for my mental health.
I cooked them, used a rolling pin, sang to them, and begged. Nothing worked.
And then I remembered! I remembered I had this beautiful spice grinder I once gave my mother-in-law as a present, but then took back because she had two. What? She doesn’t need two! Well, anyway, I gave her the poor-girl look, and she told me I could take it. She still loves me. I think.
You can see them here. Once you have it set to the space you want (when the stones are close to each other the grinding is finer, when they are spaced apart, it is more coarse…), you screw the top back on which holds the handle in place.
The ultimate goal here is to separate the seed from the hull. If you do this with a machine that was made for this task, you should end up with a bowl of creamy dehulled seeds that you can then run through the grinder again and mill into flour. In order to open the hull but not crash it, I opened the space between the stones to a rather large one.
I’ve learned, the hard way, of course, that anything you want to do with buckwheat seeds works much better if they are super dry. So I placed the seeds in a pan and turned the heat to medium. I roasted them for about 7 minutes or so, stirring constantly, so they don’t burn.
Well, it’s not pure white flour, it’s got some crushed hulls in it, but I am looking at it as whole wheat buckwheat flour. Gotta stay positive.
I ended up with about a cup of flour. A lot of my seeds were sacrificed in my scientific experiments. The good news is that there are still a lot of plants in the field. So I have more to work with. I see a batch of homemade buckwheat pancakes in our future.
So here are my wishes for you for 2015 (or any other time)…
- Don’t be concerned if people think you’ve gone mental.
- Don’t follow the rules, make them.
- Take your kids to as many walks in nature as possible.
- Plant something. It doesn’t have to be a whole field. A pot of green onions is good enough.
- Harvest something.
- Be creative.
- Always, ALWAYS, see the positive side of everything!
OK, I am off to meet the Kardashians now.
See you next year!
P.S – you are welcome to follow my Grains and Seeds Pinterest board where I collect helpful information about grains and seeds, and how to grow and process them.
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