Friday, December 16, 2011

Buckwheat Harvest 2011

This year, I grew some buckwheat in the garden. I think it was a success. I ended up with one kilo of unhulled buckwheat. Not too shabby.
Buckwheat sheaves drying in early November
Growing buckwheat is quite easy. After planting it on August 15, I only weeded once, and thinned the stand at the same time. After that, it just grew (with a few waterings of diluted urine of course). And man, did it grow! After the weeding, it went to canopy in just a few days and shaded out most of what was below it. Then came the long flowering period, with lots and lots of bees. And by October 30, it was ready to harvest (But I was busy for a few days and finally got to it on November 2.)

To harvest the buckwheat, you just need a hand sickle and some long straw, or string.
1. Grab a handful of stalks near the base, and cut them with the sickle. Quite a few of them will break off, buckwheat stems are very brittle.
2. When you have a generous handful, take a few long straws and wrap them around the base twice, twist them two or three times, and tuck it under the band.
3. When you finish binding, stack the sheaves stems down along a fence, or drape them over the top rail.
4. After a week to ten days, they should be dry enough to thresh.

For the buckwheat I grew here, I threshed it by hand. It is not so hard- just grab a bundle and cut/untie the band. Then close your gloved fist around a few stalks at the base and pull it through your fist. The seeds will pop off onto the tarp you have of course laid on your threshing floor. Continue for longer than you thought it would take, and you have a bundle of buckwheat stems, and a lot of seeds and trash on the tarp. If you have a few sunny days coming up, dry the buckwheat and chaff for a few days, but you can winnow them right away if needed.

You need moving air to winnow effectively. If there is no wind, you can use a fan. I placed a cardboard box in the middle of the tarp, just below my fan. Then I slowly sprinkled handfuls of seeds and chaff. The trash mostly blew away, and I had a box full of fairly clean seed. So I did it again, and again.
Finally, I had one kilogram of buckwheat. I have a plan to make a hopefully more effective winnower from some cardboard boxes- look forward to that project next year.

I finally spread the seeds thinly in a shallow cardboard tray and have them drying indoors. I stir them occasionally. The plan is to make soba noodles for the traditional "Toshi Koshi Soba" on Dec. 31. The tradition comes from how busy the Japanese housewives are making "Osechi" (a special New Years boxed lunch) for the extended family at year end. The housewives prefer to make something easy and quick on New Year's Eve. It is bad luck to not eat all the noodles, so don't make too many.

The buckwheat patch is now resting until spring (I forgot to order cover crop seeds). What do you think I should put in there next? We went from: weedy pasture-potatoes-buckwheat-fallow- ????

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