Not gonna lie: Buckwheat hasn’t been on our radar. We knew it was sometimes used to make pancakes, and of course there’s that adorable little rascal with the same name. But…buckwheat? We’ve been too busy keeping up with achievements in acai berries, chia seeds and other superfoods to think about buckwheat.
But hold on. It turns out that buckwheat IS, in fact, a superfood. It’s not even wheat — it’s actually a gluten-free seed that’s packed with minerals and nutrients. And it’s delicious, especially when turned into bite-sized noshes with cocoa, crunchy peanuts or oatmeal raisins, as the new company BuckWHAT (pictured above) is doing.
The sister-brother duo of Leeann Rybakov, 32, and Edward Kartashevsky, 34, are the force behind the Brooklyn startup, which recently made its debut at the farmers market in Springs. The siblings were born in Ukraine, where buckwheat is more popular. “I’ve been eating it for a long time,” says Rybakov, who came to the U.S. from Kiev when she was 6. “My mom would make buckwheat, and I would put vegetables in it.” When she graduated last year from the International Culinary Center in Soho, it seemed logical to create a food business out of buckwheat.
After experimenting with a few recipes, “we came up with the noshes,” she says, which are healthful snacks that are naturally sweet (no added sugars), high in fiber and protein, with omega-3s to boot. The noshes contain buckwheat (which is now blowing our minds) and simple ingredients like dates, almonds and cinnamon. The company also makes a buckwheat granola or “bucknola,” with no added oils or sugars. Eventually, Rybakov and Kartashevsky might expand into chips and crackers.
The biggest challenge in starting up, Rybakov says, is raising awareness about buckwheat. Even health-conscious consumers assume — given the name — that it contains gluten. “People don’t really know about buckwheat so much,” she says. “I have to educate them.” The company has produced this video to get the word out.
For now, Rybakov is keeping the business simple, testing out the product at the farmers market (where sales have been brisk, she reports). She and her brother, who runs the business side of BuckWHAT, are continuing their day jobs at the Kartashevsky family’s 15-year-old shipping business, Katash Inc. They hope to sell their buckwheat products in small Brooklyn shops, and then supermarkets. Rybakov has a license to make the noshes in her Brooklyn Heights apartment, where she uses organic buckwheat grown in the Hudson Valley (who knew!), but is considering a move to a commerical kitchen.
Why launch in the Hamptons? The Kartashevsky family has owned a place in Springs for several years. “It seemed the perfect place to kick off our company and spread the buckwheat love,” she says.
For more on the gluten-free virtues of buckwheat, watch the video below.
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