Buckwheat sprouts are buckwheat seeds that have been soaked, softened, and allowed to germinate. They are high in protein and gluten-free and are commonly used as a cereal or granola base. The sprouts are also commonly added to whole grain or multi-grain breads. In most cases, the buckwheat seed is the main object. Sprouting is simply an indication that the seed is softened and has begun releasing its nutrients.
The seeds, or fruits, of the buckwheat plant are known as groats, and it is from these groats that buckwheat sprouts form. Buckwheat is a grain that resembles wheat and other cereals, though it is not genetically related to wheat at all. It is in the same family as wild rice and quinoa. Buckwheat is generally considered to be one of the most nutritious grains, largely owing to the high protein and vitamin content of its groat.
That groat can be difficult to chew and digest on its own. Most of the time, it is milled into flour, then used to make any number of buckwheat products, including noodles, bread, and pastry products. It can also be roasted or baked. When sprouted, the groat remains raw, which means that all of its nutrients are preserved. It is usually much easier to eat and digest when sprouted.
Sprouting buckwheat usually begins with soaking the groat in a large pot of water for one to two hours. The groat must then be rinsed, strained, and left to sit in a still place for several days. Depending on the relative humidity, the buckwheat seeds may need to be rinsed periodically in order to stay moist.
Buckwheat sprouts are usually little more than tiny “tails” that emerge from the center of the seeds. It is usually best to use the buckwheat sprouts immediately once this tail appears. If left unattended, the sprouts will continue growing into small plants.
The actual buckwheat plants are not particularly tasty, and their growth also draws nutrients out of the fruit. Most recipes that call for buckwheat sprouts are primarily interested in the fruit. The sprout is more incidental: it is a sign that the fruit is soft enough to eat but is not usually desirable in its own right.
There are many uses for buckwheat sprouts, and cooking with buckwheat is a broad art. Some of the more popular buckwheat sprout dishes include granolas and breakfast cereals, particularly when topped with fresh fruit. Buckwheat sprouts are also a staple ingredient of sprouted wheat bread, many multi-grain breads, and as a unique salad topping.