Buckwheat plants have five or six petal-like sepals and an abundance of tiny flowers that lack petals. These plants have toothless leaves as well as swollen joints or nodes along the stem. Plants also have distinctive seeds, which are usually brown or black and possess a triangular shape when mature.
Despite its name, buckwheat is not a grass. Buckwheat plants are closely related to sorrel, knotweed and rhubarb. Buckwheat is a common crop that produces edible seeds high in carbohydrates. Plants have a branching root system with one primary root and usually produce flowers that are white, yellow or pink. Plants branch freely allowing for better environmental adaptation than other cereal crops.
Buckwheat is a grain crop with a growing period of between 10 and 12 weeks. A short-season crop, buckwheat plants do best in low-fertility or acidic soils that have good drainage. These plants do well in northern climates and higher elevations, and people commonly use them to suppress summer weeds.
Domestication and cultivation of buckwheat plants occurred as far back as 6000 B.C. Farmers grew and harvested over 1 million acres of buckwheat in the United States in 1918. Buckwheat production declined during the 20th century due to the popularity of nitrogen-based fertilizers.