Find a farmer around metro Atlanta and chances are good, if she’s growing buckwheat, she’s growing it as a green manure crop. Buckwheat grows in poor soil, it’s not subject to many diseases or pests and it adds nitrogen to the soil if it’s tilled into the ground.
But at Gilliam’s Community Garden in the southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Oakland City, buckwheat is grown to feed livestock and people. The seeds are harvested and ground into flour and the plants go to feed the Gilliams’ chickens, turkeys and goats. Gilliam’s Community Garden farms on about one-and-a-half acres of a three-acre property.
“Buckwheat is nutritious and loaded with vitamin B – B1, B2, B3, B5, all the B complex vitamins,” says Lovey Gilliam.
Gilliam refers to her husband Prentice as “Farmer P” and says he’s the one who does all the work. “He plants it, he nurtures the plants and he lets me know when he’s done all the harvesting. I do the easy part – the grinding,” she says.
This is the Gilliams second year of growing buckwheat. A spring planting yields mature seeds in the summer and a late August crop will mature around November. They plant less than a quarter acre and end up with a yield of about 60 pounds of buckwheat flour each time.
“Once the plants set seed they become dormant and the seed pods start to look like little peas. You just brush the seed pods and they fall right into the bags. You don’t have to cut them off or anything like that. Then I grind them into flour,” says Gilliam.
Gilliam has a motor-driven mill that screws onto a tabletop. She uses it to make buckwheat flour but also the corn flour that is a big seller for her at the year-round Wednesday evening East Point Farmers Market.
Selling buckwheat flour requires a little more education and she tells her customers how to enjoy the buckwheat flour the way she does. “It makes delicious pancakes which I serve with molasses. You can substitute it for bleached wheat flour in biscuits and corn bread. I like to use it to panfry fish, too.”
Seeds processed, a soil test tells the Gilliams if they need more nitrogen in some part of the garden and if so, the spent plants are tilled into that area instead of going to feed the garden’s animals.
Buckwheat is a relative of rhubarb and sorrel, cultivated around the world and widely appreciated for its use in gluten-free baking. Gilliam stores her buckwheat flour in a cool place like a root cellar where it keeps until she sells out. She expects to have buckwheat flour available again to her customers in January.
One Eared Stag’s Buckwheat Pancakes
Chef Robert Phalen of One Eared Stag dreams up seasonal variations of the buckwheat pancakes that are the creation of pastry chef Kristia Paz. This fall, the topping is a honey, cinnamon and apple compote.
This gluten-free recipe makes pancakes at least 3/4-inch thick and totally delicious. If you want thinner pancakes, thin the batter a tablespoon of milk at a time until it reaches the consistency you prefer. Thinner pancakes will give you a larger yield.
This is also an easy recipe to cut in half if you’d like to have fewer pancakes.
2 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup rice flour
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
2 cups buttermilk
4 ounces melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Honey, cinnamon, apple compote to serve with pancakes
Heat griddle to 375 degrees.
Sift buckwheat flour, rice flour, cornstarch, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder and baking soda together into a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, buttermilk, butter, sour cream, eggs, vinegar and vanilla.
Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until combined and smooth.
Lightly grease griddle. Using a 1/2 cup measure, pour batter onto heated griddle. Cook on first side until bubbles pop on the surface and the edges are set, approximately 2 minutes. Then turn and continue cooking until cooked through. Serve immediately with honey, cinnamon and apple compote. Makes: 16 pancakes
Per pancake: 256 calories (percent of calories from fat, 35), 6 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 10 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 75 milligrams cholesterol, 251 milligrams sodium.
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