Buckwheat is not a true cereal but rather from the same family as sorrel and rhubarb and is grown for its seeds. Being hardy and fast growing even in harsh conditions it is popular in eastern Europe and was, for many centuries, a vital food in mountainous regions of Japan, hence soba - buckwheat - noodles.
Buckwheat is used as both whole grains and ground to flour. The most famous buckwheat dish is kasha and the flour is used in blini, small savoury pancakes, which the Russian eat with caviar. Large buckwheat pancakes are a staple American breakfast. The whole grain may be cooked in the same way as rice and, like rice, can be used in sweet puddings or cooked down into gruel and porridge.