Search This Blog

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gunter's Buckwheat Honey, Berryville, VA

What exactly is buckwheat? A quick look at wiki tells me that buckwheat is, in fact, not related to wheat at all (not being a cereal or grass) but related to sorrels, knotweed and rhubarb (I have no idea what knotweed is). According to Wiki, buckwheat plants grow quickly, beginning to produce seeds in about 6 weeks which ripen in 10-11 weeks. Given its short growing season it is sometimes used as a second crop or where the growing season is short. Not surprisingly, it was one of the first crops introduced by Europeans to North America and was an important crop until around 1960 when the use of fertilizers became commonplace. Apparently too much fertilizer reduces buckwheat yields and after fertilizers became popular there was a sharp decline in buckwheat production.

The buckwheat flowers produce seeds (a single seed inside a hard outer hull) that can be ground into flour or used like wheat. We've been cultivating buckwheat for a long time, starting around 6000 BC in southeast Asia.

Buckwheat is used in a lot of different foods. Perhaps you've had a traditional French gallette - a crepe made with sarrasin, or buckwheat flour? It is a specialty of Brittany.

In addition buckwheat noodles are eaten in Tibet and Japan (Soba), and buckwheat groats can be boiled and made into a porridge. More recently buckwheat has been used as a substitute for other grains to make gluten-free beer, and as a filler in pillows and upholstery as an alternative to feathers.

But back to my buckwheat honey. It is produced and packed in Berryville, Virginia (on Bee Line Lane) which is located in the upper Shenandoah Valley. It is a small town with about 3000 people that was established in 1798. Gunter honey is a private company owned by Gregory Gunter and established in 1989. They don't seem to have a website but a search online suggests that they produce a variety of honeys including clover, orange, alfalfa, wildflower, blueberry, eucalyptus, avocado, star thistle and buckwheat.

Buckwheat honey is very dark and smells a bit malty, like molasses. It is also thick, not as thick as molasses, but has that texture to it. It has a sweet clear taste that is true from beginning to end, sort of a lighter version of molasses with some honey taste thrown in an undertone of a malty/woody taste. Very smooth. I think it would be good in a strong black tea, on hot cereal (buckwheat groats perhaps?) or on hardy bread.

Of interest, a study showed that buckwheat honey was an effective cough syrup:

You can buy Gunter's buckwheat honey online (just google it and you'll see lots of people sell it) or you can contact the Gunter Honey folks directly:

100 Bee Line Ln
Berryville, VA 22611
(540) 955-1734