A day for encounters with buckwheat

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Thursday 20th March 2014

We started and finished today with buckwheat. So guess what the following short piece is about!

Unfortunately, signal is very weak here so I can’t upload photos at the moment, but I will add some when I can. Pictures now added (Friday) – it was getting dark when I took the last one

We had delicious buckwheat bread and tsampa (more on that another time) for breakfast. It was more like a thick sweetened pancake, but in the absence of a photo, imagine something that looks akin to a fried cow pat.

Buckwheat is a staple food in the Himalayas, being grown right up to Manang (3450m) in this valley. It isn’t a wheat, but is a seed on a flowering plant, so it is also gluten-free.

It is an ideal crop for this area because it has a short growing season, producing ripe seeds in about 3 months; grows well on poor soils and it’s a versatile food product that is high in protein.

It is thought that is was domesticated in South East Asia about 6000BC, it then moved to China and continued to spread westwards. Some of the earliest Chinese remains date to about 2600BC. Traditionally, trade of crops, salt and other products occurred between Nepal, Tibet, China and India – with Nepal often being mid-way on the trade route – so it is feasible that buckwheat made it into Nepal not long after 2600BC.

Today it is still grown in the area we are staying in tonight (a village called Koto at about (2500m).

On our way into the village I saw what I thought was a watermill on the outskirts of the settlement. After a quick lemon tea, we went to investigate. It wasn’t a mill, but a structure for syphoning-off stream water into a separate leat. Lo-and-behold this did lead to a small watermill. Although the mill was locked, wandering around the outside we stumbled on a pile of husks spilling out through gaps in the wall, left over from the grinding process. Can you guess what they were? You got it. Buckwheat.

Tomorrow we go up the Nar valley. This is a side valley that is off the main tourist path and heads towards the Tibetan border. There are no tea houses in the valley so we will be staying in people’s homes. It should be interesting, but we are unlikely to get signal for a few days.

Until soon!

Suzi

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