Pictured here is a large expanse of California buckwheat growing healthy and wild in O’Neill Park in November, just before the rainy season began. Notice how the flowers have turned a rusty reddish brown as this shrub reflects the changing seasons.
The buckwheat flower is turning to seed as winter approaches. California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is distantly related to the Eurasian crop plant common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), which is used for pancakes, bread, and porridges. Unlike its European relative, the seed of the California buckwheat is not commonly used as a grain but instead feeds local birds and wildlife. If you trim the reddish flowers in winter, lay them on the ground for wildlife to enjoy.
Author Michael Wilken-Robinson reports in his book “Kumeyaay Ethnobotany” that native Baja Californians cook buckwheat flowers and leaves with water to make a tea to calm nerves. Others report using California buckwheat to cure digestive disorders. Medicinal uses for buckwheat are widespread among the Kumeyaay people.
In the spring and summer, California buckwheat is an important source of nectar for bees and is prized for the fragrant honey produced from the flower. Buckwheat honey has a delicate flavor and aroma.
More honey comes from pollinated buckwheat than any other native plant in California. Visit your local farmer’s market to purchase local buckwheat honey and enjoy its sweet, rich flavor throughout the year.
It’s hard to resist the allure of the iconic California buckwheat and all of the benefits it will provide in your garden landscape.