A lot has been happening at the Durham gristmill. Last fall we completed removal of over 20 invasive Norway maple trees. This was made possible through the efforts of volunteers and the generosity of the Lower Delaware Wild and Scenic organization that awarded us a $2,000 grant. This year we were awarded another $2,000 by the same organization and the money will be used to stabilize the banks of the tail race through the planting of native species of grasses and other ground cover. The Durham Historical Society has been conducting lectures in the mill and we recently held the first in a series of workshops highlighting old crafts. The recently completed session concerned paper crafting where attendees learned how to make historical boxes and some origami figures.
You will probably recognize the wheat that had been sown in the planter by the Post Office was recently harvested, resulting in nearly ten pounds of grain which we will be displaying in the near future.
The new crop that has been sown in the planter is buckwheat, another locally raised item that was ground into flour here at the mill. You can see that the seeds have already sprouted and that the plants are growing. We should be able to harvest in about ten weeks or around the end of September. Buckwheat is considered to be a pseudocereal because its seeds are used culinarily like other grains. However, the plant itself is not a grass like wheat, oats or barley but rather is closely related to rhubarb and sorrel. The seeds are triangular in shape and the plant does well in low-fertility soils or in acidic soils. It is a short season crop and was often planted for secondary income when the primary grain crop had been harvested. The plant gives back nitrogen to the soil and for this reason farmers planted it as a cheap way of improving their soils. However with the advent of inexpensive nitrogen fertilizers being developed, buckwheat lost some of its popularity.
The plant provides nourishing food, a collection base for bees to make delicious buckwheat honey, and a source from which alcoholic drinks can be obtained. Buckwheat contains no gluten and for this reason, it can be used to brew a gluten free beer. Buckwheat pancakes have been popular for a long time and the classic blini, or small pancake, on to which smoked fish, caviar, or other exotic ingredients are placed has long been noted in Russian cuisine. For the more basic palate, buckwheat groats make an interesting, tasty, and nourishing porridge.
If you’ve never tried any of these buckwheat treats, do yourself a favor and don’t hesitate to awaken your taste buds.