Today is the last of a three day visit to the “crown of Maine”….northern Aroostook county, Fort Kent, St. John river valley… land of potatoes, roots, free-range chickens and grass-fed beef. This is God’s country…acres and acres of potato fields, rolling hills as far as you can see, a picture-postcard landscape dotted with farmhouses, barns, giant tractors and storage sheds.
Purpose of the trip was to meet farmers. When one studies the landscape of our country, and in particular, the New England watershed…this is the land that has the capacity to feed the Northeast…and to build that capacity we need farmers…farmers that want to grow acres of food. And I want to connect these farmers and this food to markets…and to people
One crop that fascinates me is buckwheat…or black wheat…which originated in northeastern Asia and was first cultivated around 6,000 B.C. Buckwheat was one of the first crops to be introduced by Europeans to North America. As the traditional black wheat did not do well here, a silver skin variety was grown.
Buckwheat is really not a grain, but an herb or fruit closely related to the wild rhubarb. Thus buckwheat flour is gluten free while containing twice the amount of B vitamin as wheat flour.
The buckwheat plant is hardy and resilient (much like the folks up here), which makes it easy to grow without the use of chemicals. The Bouchard family has a six generation business that mills and packages buckwheat flour and a “ploye” mix.
Ployes (rhymes with boys) are light buckwheat pancakes that have been favored by Acadians for many generations. Ployes are extremely versatile, and can be used as elegant crepes, hearty breakfast pancakes, or flatbread, buttered and rolled and enjoyed with every meal.
French Acadian Chocolate Cake
- 1/2 cup room temperature butter
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup Apple Sauce
- 1 1/2 cup Acadian light buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
- Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the applesauce, buckwheat flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Beat until smooth. Spoon into pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Serve plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or with whipped cream or ice cream.
- Yield: 9 servings