Harvesting and Storing

Unlike a stand of grass grain, which usually ripens pretty much all at once, any one buckwheat plant at mid-season will have flowering buds, green grains, and ripe seed on it. The grain starts maturing in 70-86 days—maybe even 60 if planted at midsummer. If you thresh too early, you lose the late-coming kernels. If you wait too long, the early-maturing seeds fall out onto the ground. Because the stems of mature buckwheat become brittle and lodge (fall over and break) easily, harvest before a hard wind or rain storm hits, if possible, to prevent crop losses. Also, plan to do it in the middle of a prolonged dry spell. In general, when most of the grain is completely developed and you have had a light frost, get busy and combine or cut it, because buckwheat is killed by the slightest frost and, after dying, quickly becomes very brittle. To maximize your yield, harvest late enough to get as many mature seeds as possible, but before serious shattering begins.

For a preview of the coming grain, just go out and strip off a few cupfuls of the grain into a container you've brought with you. Take that into the house, grind, and bake. But that doesn't give you a winter's supply. For that, you combine or mow by hand. Use the general routines described in the opening of this chapter to cut, bundle, shock, and thresh. Field-dry the buckwheat grain or dry it under cover, but it must be absolutely bone dry when you thresh. If moisture is in the forecast, cover with plastic or take it under shelter. After buckwheat plants die, they become so brittle that the seed easily threshes out (in field) on the threshing floor. A typical yield is 25 to 50 bu./acre. Volunteer Buckwheat: What falls to the ground will grow next year. You don't need to plow to have another crop. If you don't want volunteer buckwheat in that place the next year, harvest soon after the first seed matures, before the plant scatters seeds! If you cut in cloudy weather or while it's still damp with dew, that helps avoid shattering, too. storing: Buckwheat stores best at 12-13 percent moisture. Chickens, goats, and rabbits love it! You can store un-threshed buckwheat and feed it to them, straw and all. Buckwheat Hulls: The buckwheat seed has a sizable hull, about 40 percent of its weight. You can grind up the whole thing or dehull it. The hulls actually add good nutritional value; ground unhulled buckwheat makes a darker flour as well as a much better food. However, if you must dehull. . .

Dehulling. Toast the seeds (see "Wild Rice") and grind them; then stop and sift out hulls with your flour sifter (see "Barley"). Big outfits use a commercial-sized dehuller.

Continue reading here: Buckwheat Recipes

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