Buckwheat blossoms in Northern muontains of Vietnam

(No.4, Vol.6,June-July 2016 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

A field of buckwheat, Bac Ha District, Lao Cai Province, 2014
Photo: Do Huu Tien

Lo Lo women at a field of buckwheat, Ha Giang Province
Photo: Nguyen Ngoc Quynh

The food that saved a people,
buckwheat also adds colour to life

Each flower is just a purple dot, but myriads of them make a colourful carpet covering entire rocky plateaus of Ha Giang.
Regarding the origin of this plant, a legend has been passed down for generations among the people of Ha Giang. Once upon a time, a rice fairy and a maize fairy went down to sow their seeds on earth. They also spread the husks and hila left at the bottom of their bags in the gorges between mountains. Ha Giang people harvested the rice and corn and were well fed for a while. But famine came again when it was all gone. Desperately, the people went searching for food again, and they found a kind of triangular starchy seed that tasted just as good as rice and corn. It saved them from imminent death.
At first, Ha Giang people cultivated this plant because it had nutritional value. But, as their quality of living improved, they began to use it beautify their lives. They now grow it everywhere, even on rocky slopes and on roadsides. As the season comes, the land brightens up under the red, pink, white and green ornaments of blossoming brocade.
The tiny flowers have a rusty, unpleasant smell. Standing alone, they are hardly beautiful. But a vast blanket of them can heat up dry, cold rays of winter sun and make the harsh rocky ground look soft, even fluffy.
When the flowers fade completely, Ha Giang people rush to harvest them to make cakes, wines and teas. They can make from buckwheat any sweets that others make from wheat or rice. Buckwheat wine is a little sweet, with a touch of bitterness, very smooth and also can very quickly make you drunk.
The buckwheat flower seasons fall in April and May in Cao Bang Province and in October and November in Ha Giang and Lao Cai provinces.

By Thu Huong

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