Its smell and taste separates it from more banal honeys: intense hive, sour floral, and almost musky aromas, with malt and caramel flavors complexified by light herbaceous notes. If you have ever experienced real buckwheat honey, it is hard to forget it.
The plant itself is a type of faux cereal, like quinoa. Rather than belonging to the grass family, where you find wheat and rice species, it actually belongs to the same family as rhubarb and sorrel. Originating in China, it came to Europe in the 12th century, and was quickly adopted centuries later in North America with the onset of colonization. Its unique explains how buckwheat became a staple on multiple continents. A remarkably healthy plant, it is rich in B vitamins, amino acids, proteins, and minerals like magnesium and manganese. It grows easily in poor soils and conditions, is naturally resistant to pests, and needs only very simple harvest techniques. In this sense, buckwheat today is still an easy crop to grow organically, something much appreciated by the bees! It also happens to flower quite late in the year, providing a crucial boost to hives for the winter. A single hectare of buckwheat can provide up to 150kg of honey in a year.
In France, buckwheat and buckwheat honey have been a staple of the north, specifically emblematic of the region of Brittany. Breton crêpes, a kind of thin pancake, are distinctive for their use of “blé noir” (the “black flour” made of ground buckwheat grains), and a centrepiece of the regional cuisine. The honey is also mainly found in their “chouchen”, a traditional mead-style fermentation started spontaneously by adding fresh pressed apple juice to diluted buckwheat honey.
Due to the nutritional richness of the buckwheat plant itself, its honey is now being scientifically studied as a top-tier bee product, with comparisons made between it and manuka honey. But, more than anything, it is relatively easy to find locally produced buckwheat honey anywhere in the world. This means if you want to be sure to avoid imported stuff and support low-impact agriculture, buckwheat honey is a delicious way to do it.