California Buckwheat-Eriogonum fasciculatum
There are many varieties of California Buckwheat, but the only one at the St. Francis Dam is the woody perennial called Eriogonum fasciculatum. This shrub is native to California, to the south west, and north western Mexico. It can be found in Chaparral and dry scrub. It is low growing and highly drought tolerant. The flowers bloom in spring and are pink. Later in the season, they turn white, and in the fall, they turn a lovely shade of rust. This plant is an important food source for butterflies, birds and humans. Native Americans harvested the groats (seeds) and ground them to produce coarse flour that they used to make bread and gruel.
The groats of this native buckwheat are small. Today, American farmers produce a hybridized version with much larger groats that we use commercially to make Buckwheat bread and Buckwheat Pancakes. It has a rich, nutty taste. When ground into flour, it produces a dark grey colored mass. The bread and pancakes are grey to black in color.