I think we can all admit to being “influenced” by Instagram at some point since the app took over the world. There is now a whole industry dedicated to achieving this exact goal. I myself have been “influenced” many times. But for the moment, I would like you to take a pause to put aside the negative connotations of that word as you read on and embrace how Instagram can expose you to many new and exciting things.
Recently, I came across a post by @nourish_not_punish_ that featured buckinis. Buckinis? Like ? Nope! Buckinis is sprouted buckwheat.
Now, I’m not completely unfamiliar with sprouted foods (soaking and rinsing granules to germinate them). I always sprout my lentils and other legumes and beans (except kidney beans) since the process transforms their starches and makes them easier to digest. Fermentation has been used by ancient cultures and modern users alike to make foods last longer and increase nutritional value. But I have never thought of sprouting my buckwheat, despite frequently eating it for my gluten sensitive stomach.
Buckwheat comes in two varieties: common buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum, and Tartary buckwheat, Fagopyrum tataricum, (mainly used for processed foods). Despite its name, buckwheat is not a grain but a seed from the Polygonaceae family (with sorrel and rhubarb). Buckwheat is high in flavonoids, particularly flavonols (such as rutin, a free radical). Flavonoids are beneficial for their antioxidant properties and may help reduce neurodegeneration, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. As a result, buckwheat is sometimes called a superfood since it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and hypolipidemic effects with its balanced amino acids, lipids, dietary fiber, and minerals.
When sprouted (sometimes called activated or fermented), buckwheat has shown higher antioxidant potential in scientific studies. One study showed how fermented buckwheat has higher rutin, orientin, isoorientin, vitexin, isovitexin, and total phenolic and flavonoid contents than unfermented groats. This could possibly improve antioxidant levels in the liver, but overall the process enhances bioactive potential in buckwheat. Fermentation also feeds probiotic microorganisms present in the buckwheat, like lactic acid, which can help with immune health. (Phew. I’m all done with the sciencey and nutritionist bits)
So, I was intrigued to try it out and did what any modern curious George would do — I went to google. But buckinis only came up with results that could be bought in Australia. Weird. I did a little digging. Turns out, Buckinis (and Buckini) is a trademarked word owned by Loving Earth Pty. Ldt., an Australian company, that doesn’t sell internationally. Bummer.
Now, I could’ve just gone out and bought buckwheat groats and gone through the process of soaking, rinsing, and waiting until the buckwheat grew tail-like ends. But I’ll admit, I can be a bit lazy sometimes, and if there is an option to buy buckwheat already fermented, I’m in. But here’s where I ran into another hiccup. Stores don’t sell sprouted buckwheat. At least not here in the U.S. All I could find were a few options sold on nuts.com, Blue Mountain Organics, and Amazon (of course). There seems to be one U.S. based company, PureLiving, but it’s not readily available in the Northeast, and Second Spring, a Canadian company.
Now call me old school but I still haven’t gotten on the bandwagon of buying my groceries online, especially if it’s not major food providers like Thrive Market, Instacart, or local online stores like NoPigNeva. I personally prefer going to a brick-and-mortar and getting my products. But I can’t seem to find any stores in New England that sell sprouted buckwheat.
But why? I’ve scoured the internet for answers but I haven’t found the reason yet. I thought maybe it has to do with the FDA and food regulations around fermented foods. But their sprouts guidelines didn’t offer any insights. I looked into the Sprouts Safety Alliance (SSA), but found no answers there as well. The only hint of an answer is that sprouts require extra specifications since they can be exposed to dangerous microbes. To me, that seems like a small price to pay to fill an obvious void in the food product market.
Maybe in one, two, or five years we’ll see products coming out. Superfoods are major buzzwords right now and there seems to be a growing trend of embracing fermentation as people expand their palette. Maybe sprouted alternative grains like buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, barley, and farro will become the next big thing.
But for now, you’ll find me sprouting my own buckwheat at home. It’s an easy enough process that honestly takes less time than the deep dive I’ve spent researching this question. But I’m always looking for interesting questions to answer. And if I was an entrepreneur, I’d jump on this market gap opportunity ASAP.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist. If you are unsure about trying sprouted buckwheat or other fermented foods, please contact a professional.
Meet the author:
Brittany Fox (she/her) is an environmental historian and archivist working for the Cambridge Historical Commission and Northeastern University. Currently in Boston’s Fenway area, she is originally from Hopedale, MA and has close ties with Newport and Rhode Island. Brittany went vegetarian in 2015 for environmental reasons then fully vegan and gluten free in 2018. She is passionate about baking, reading, film, skincare, and the pursuit of sustainability.
You can follow Brittany on Instagram @catswithspoons