Appalachian Food

Have You Ever Eaten Buckwheat Pancakes?

agriculture chart for far western counties
Page from “Mountain Masters, Slavery and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina”
by John Insoce

A few weeks back Don Casada sent me an email about buckwheat pancakes. The book he was reading, “Mountain Masters, Slavery and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina” by John Insoce, influenced his decision to travel down the rabbit hole of buckwheat growers in Western North Carolina.

As you can see from the chart above, there was a lot of buckwheat grown in WNC. Don’s family had a tradition of eating buckwheat pancakes for one of their weekend suppers when he was a boy so he took special interest in it as an agriculture crop in the area.

The local county agent’s office pointed Don to an online source where he found more information about buckwheat.

Here’s what he found:

“It turned out that the Pareto Principle was at work. Two counties – Watauga and Ashe – accounted for 52% of the entire state’s production of buckwheat. If you added in the two counties of the time on either side of them, Alleghany and Yancey, the four counties combined accounted for 77% of the state’s production; their population was 2.5% of that for the entire state. 

Add in Haywood, Buncombe, Madison and Henderson, and a total of the eight counties, with 6.0% of the population accounted for over 91% of the state production. 

The more western counties of the time – Jackson, Macon and Cherokee (an area which today would include Clay, Graham and Swain) weren’t particularly significant producers of buckwheat.

When it came to sorghum molasses, Buncombe led the state. Next in order were Cherokee, Yancey and Madison. Those four, with 3.7% of the population, accounted for 39% of statewide production.”

Don also checked the buckwheat production in Tennessee counties which border NC. He said the results were similar. Most production in TN was also along the Appalachian mountain chain. Five counties in the area accounted for 67% of the state’s buckwheat production. As he continued to research he quickly discovered buckwheat isn’t a warm weather crop. The production from northern states during the same time period totally blew away what we thought were impressive numbers from the southern Appalachians.

Don’s research made me wish I could ask Pap if anyone grew buckwheat when he was a boy. Farmer Teddy grew some at John C. Campbell Folk School this past year as a cover crop—its a pretty plant.

buckwheat pancakes

But what all the talk really made me wish was that I could taste those buckwheat pancakes Don had such fond memories of.

Don’s brother Jim sent me a bag of buckwheat flour so I got to taste them for myself and they were good!

The first time I made them I used half buckwheat and half flour in my usual pancake batter recipe. The next time I used straight buckwheat and they were still really good. Buckwheat is gluten free so that’s a plus for anyone who needs to stay away from gluten.

Have you ever had buckwheat pancakes?

Tipper

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    William J. Boone
    January 19, 2021 at 10:45 am

    My late aunt, Nanny, spoke of her mother making buckwheat cakes for breakfast regularly. I didn’t eat any until
    I was in my thirties, but loved them from the first bite. While reading this blog, I put up another tab and ordered a bag of of buckwheat flour. I have some country sausage I made in my freezer and a big jar of sorghum molasses I recently bought online. I can’t wait until the flour comes so I can make a true old timey country morning feast. Thanks for this blog that whetted my appetite to revive an old favorite.

  • Reply
    Kevin Johnson
    January 18, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    I just found your YouTube channel and watched your cornbread episode. Followed it here. We have buckwheat pancakes every other Sunday. The alternate Sundays we have buttermilk pancakes made with our own home cultured buttermilk. It has been a tradition in our home for many years. Both my wife and I grew up in Iowa. We got hooked on buckwheat pancakes and hush puppies when I was stationed in Mississippi. That was over 44 years ago.

  • Reply
    DJ Glasgow
    January 18, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    I’ve never tried buckwheat pancakes, but I had the pleasure of living 20 minutes from the historic War Eagle mill in Northwest Arkansas. They sell buckwheat pancake mix. I was a regular customer of their biscuit mix and their corn grits, which are ground on site. Now I have moved from there and am happy that I can get their products by mail order from https://www.wareaglemill.com/product/buckwheat-pancake-mix/

  • Reply
    Rodger Linkenhoker
    January 13, 2021 at 10:12 am

    Here in Virginia, in Bath County, they have a maple festival every year in the spring, celebrating the counties maple syrup production. In support of this festival, several civic organizations offer buckwheat pancake meals served with maple syrup, and they are delicious!! I have them at home occasionally. I also like to get buckwheat groats and make Kasha, which is a type of porridge.

  • Reply
    Terri Staines
    January 12, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    Never had them to my recollection. I don’t really like regular pancakes so I’ll have to try these. Any suggestions for using buckwheat flour besides pancakes?

  • Reply
    Frank
    January 12, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    I grew up on sour dough buckwheat pancakes and still enjoy them to this day….had them fro breakfast this past Saturday…!!

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    January 12, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    Yes, I have had them a couple of times. They are too strong for me. It’s a pecular taste that takes getting used to I guess.

  • Reply
    Maggie Boineau
    January 12, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    Absolutely my favorite pancake! We make them often and I like them using full buckwheat flour and sometimes mixing with regular pancake flour. The dense dark buckwheat pancakes are very healthy and I believe are packed with Vitamin B 17, one that is not found in very many foods we eat today. It is known to have anti-cancer properties as well. We usually add a mashed banana and I top mine with cracked flax seeds, cinnamon, and maple syrup.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    January 12, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    I have never had them Tipper.

  • Reply
    Annie Buck
    January 12, 2021 at 5:23 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever eaten buckwheat pancakes, but after reading this, I’m going to go get some BW flour and try this weekend!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 12, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    Well, I’m back from Ingles and they had Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat Flour but I didn’t find buckwheat pancake mix. The flour is in the bay beside all the regular flour surrounded by all kinds of exotic flours.

    • Reply
      Dale A
      January 17, 2021 at 5:59 pm

      Growing up, I never knew there were any other kind of pancakes than buckwheat. My family comes from Preston County, WV which is a big grower of buckwheat. They even have a Buckwheat Festival every fall in Kingwood, the county seat. I eat them every chance I get.

  • Reply
    Sue simmons Ritchie
    January 12, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    I have had buckwheat pancakes for breakfast a month ago, liked them. Buckwheat makes a good cover crop for the garden if tilled into the soil. I have done this too.

  • Reply
    Allan Guy
    January 12, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    My dad always cooked breakfast, and until I was an adult I thought all pancakes were black and white. When I got married and my wife made yellow and brown pancakes, I thought it was some sort of a new recipe she was trying. I checked with my dad and found out we were eating buckwheat cakes all that time. I was 20 years old before I had a “pancake”. Thank you for bringing back the memories of cold mornings with buckwheat cakes and slab bacon.

    • Reply
      Don Lucas
      January 12, 2021 at 4:21 pm

      My Aunt Alice made sour buckwheat cakes and home growm sausage gravy……Buckwheat mix was in crock over night any it turned sour for lunch DELICACY following day….We four did this couple years in row in, hold your hats, Princeton, N.J…….They were raised in Floyd County, Va……on Grandpa’s totally self sufficient small mountain farm……Don Lucas……

  • Reply
    dee
    January 12, 2021 at 11:28 am

    I’ve heard of buckwheat but I don’t remember ever eating buckwheat pancakes. Our son bought us one of those fancy waffle makers and I sometimes pour my regular pancake mix in it, drop a handful of blueberries on top, close it up and turn it over. The timer starts and in no time you have one or two delicious waffles. Just like you can make at the motel’s across the U.S. Your pancake looks delicious.

    Lol, I do remember Alfalfa and his sprig of hair that always stood straight up.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 12, 2021 at 10:24 am

    You and Don are on to something. One of the big things that makes Appalachia different from bordering ‘lowlands’ is that its agriculture is different. The cooler summer and colder winter temperatures, shorter growing season and little prime farmland meant that farmers grew ‘cool season’ crops that gave best productivity. Crops of the Piedmont and Coastal Plain just wouldn’t do in the mountains. And those differences rippled through the whole culture in large and small ways, even within Appalachia itself with, for example, high summer pastures. It is a somewhat circular question; Does the land make us what we are or do we make the land what it is? The answer, of course, is “Yes” but with the weight on the side of the land making us.

    Anyway, I have had buckwheat pancakes once, at our daughter’s. They were fine but as I recall somewhat dry and having been trained by commerce with bleached grains all my life, the color required mental adjustment. If true to most other similar things, buckwheat is better for us that bleached wheat f!our. You all probably know about the book that said most of our health problems come from.eating bleached wheat flour and white sugar. The title had some reference to “Eden” I believe.

    I have never seen the buckwheat plant, nor the raw seed. That is the kind of thing I think would be great if it were grown at Cable Mill in Cades Cove or at the Mountain Farm. But I do not think the NPS would ever be so inclined. They have not asked me for my ideas and I do not think they ever will.

  • Reply
    Tom H.
    January 12, 2021 at 10:23 am

    I lived in Kingwood W. Va. for a few years in my late teens and early twenties. Kingwood holds a buckwheat festival every year with bluegrass music and all things buckwheat. That’s where I learned to love buckwheat honey and pancakes. I don’t know if that festival still exists but my memories of it will last forever.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    January 12, 2021 at 10:12 am

    Forgot to say – I have planted buckwheat as a cover crop, and it is EXCELLENT for attracting honeybees or other pollinators. It will self-seed, though, if you don’t get it plowed under quickly.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    January 12, 2021 at 10:08 am

    I’ve never tried to make buckwheat pancakes myself because I’m the only one in the family who likes them besides my dad. My grandmother used to make them whenever we went to visit her; she used an overnight recipe, I believe. Mom unfortunately doesn’t like buckwheat pancakes, so she never learned my grandmother’s recipe. Once or twice a year I go to Mabry Mill on the Parkway for breakfast and get my buckwheat cake fix there!

  • Reply
    Brenda
    January 12, 2021 at 10:07 am

    As a matter of fact, we just had buckwheat pancakes Sunday morning. I use the Bob Mills Buckwheat flour and the recipe on the back. They were very good!

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    January 12, 2021 at 10:07 am

    My Mother fixed buckwheat pancakes on a regular basis. I loved them. I have not eaten them as an adult because I have found too many food items I loved as a child that are no longer appetizing. I have tried Ovaltine and Tang which seemed great at the time, but they sat on the shelf. I remember chicken gizzards and livers being such a tasty treat when I was young, but I would not touch either now. Bacon wrapped livers could be found on menus at local diners. The same thing with whole wheat flour, and I even tried that twice. Oddly enough with all the trending toward gluten free, I have not seen anybody push buckwheat pancakes. It seems like a healthy alternative to pancakes made with flour.
    I thought I would jump over to my grocery site. They seem to be selling it as organic with hefty price. I will probably try the pancakes once again.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 12, 2021 at 9:17 am

    Honestly I didn’t know that buckwheat pancakes had fallen out of fashion. I never took a liken to pancakes in any form. Or maybe it was the syrup. It’s probably been 20 years since I had a pancake. I made crepes a time or two but they weren’t any better even with applebutter on them. I guess I’m not much of a sweet eater.

    My father grew buckwheat, oats and rye but he turned them under. He called them green manure.

    I’ve got to go to Ingles today for my bi-monthly grocery run and I’ll look for buckwheat flour and pancake mix.

  • Reply
    John T
    January 12, 2021 at 9:02 am

    I had them many years ago from a box mix, just add water and were not very good. I would try them again though. My favorite is sourdough pancakes.

  • Reply
    ANN H APPLEGARTH
    January 12, 2021 at 8:58 am

    I grew up eating them, and made them occasionally after I was grown.
    But I haven’t made or eaten them in probably 50 years. They are good!

  • Reply
    carol harrison
    January 12, 2021 at 8:53 am

    In western Pa the Granges used to have Buckwheat pancake supper in the fall. I don’t know if they still do or not. I don’t remember going to one but I seem to remember mom making them once in a while. I can’t remember what they taste like. They look delicious. I sometimes have pancakes for my supper. Love the breakfast for supper.

  • Reply
    sheryl paul
    January 12, 2021 at 8:51 am

    I love buckwheat pancakes snd I have tried the muffins. Yummy

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    January 12, 2021 at 8:16 am

    Mommy and Bobby ate many a buckwheat cake when I was a child. I wasn’t fond of the brown color which “put me off” but I am definitely going to get a bag of buckwheat flour and give them a “go!” Yours looked plumb tasty the other day with 2 nice pieces of bacon! Yum! Have a great day all of you bloggers out here! Stay warm and dry. Blessings to all!!!

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    January 12, 2021 at 8:00 am

    Excellent article and comments, Tipper!…..I’d like to see a map and table like that of the North Georgia Mountains area.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    January 12, 2021 at 7:28 am

    I don’t remember eating Buckwheat pancakes. I will have to check with friends from PA and see if any of them remember Buckwheat.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    January 12, 2021 at 7:26 am

    When I was little, my mom made buckwheat pancakes for us. Later, when I was in grad school and powerful homesick, I became obsessed with making my own. Then, like JimK said, I could only find buckwheat flower at a Korean grocery store. I think that’s interesting.

    Funny thing, a few weeks ago, Alex asked if we could have buckwheat wheat pancakes. We plan to this weekend if I can find the flower.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 12, 2021 at 7:11 am

    I’ve heard of buckwheat but I don’t recall ever eating any. From the way people talked about it I thought it was regular wheat that was less processed or the left overs from when the regular wheat was processed.
    Does anyone remember the little boy on tv/movies called Alfalfa . I believe he had a sprig of hair sticking straight up.

    On another topic, Tip, it looks like your Youtube, Celebrating Appalachia, is really doing well!

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    January 12, 2021 at 6:55 am

    I have had buckwheat pancakes, but not had them for a long time. As I remember theywere good.

  • Reply
    JimK
    January 12, 2021 at 6:32 am

    Don’t remember ever having or seeing buckwheat offered at home or in restaurants locally with the exception of a Korean resturant that has a Buckwheat Noodle Salad.
    I do remember growing up the local bee keepers moving their stands where it was used as a cover crop.they said it provided both nectar and pollen to honey bees. Can’t remember how the honey was.

  • Reply
    jaz
    January 12, 2021 at 6:20 am

    i hate regular pancakes but i love buckwheat pancakes! there is a guy up here that makes shagbark hickory syrup and eating it on buckwheat pancakes is a little bit of heaven.

    • Reply
      Catherine Spence
      January 12, 2021 at 10:09 am

      That sounds yummy!

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