Founded in 1797, The Birkett Mills is the oldest and one of the primary millers of buckwheat in America. The company is located in Penn Yan, New York, and has been family owned for over 200 years. Originally the mill was water powered and it generated electricity for both milling of grain, but also for the village of Penn Yan until the village had its own source of electricity. The town was founded by Connecticut Yankees and Pennsylvania Dutch and thus got its name from both of these groups.
Buckwheat is a unique and extremely healthy and versatile food. It is botanically a member of the rhubarb family, has a pink stalk and is a fruit, not a grain. The seed comes from a white flower…a field of buckwheat in bloom is lovely. Buckwheat is grown north and south of the United States/Canadian border. It is planted around the Fourth of July so that the flower does not bloom in the peak of summer, then wilt and die yielding no buckwheat seed.
Milling of buckwheat is very tricky as it has a very hard triangular shaped outer hull. The hull is fractionated or knocked off by large millstones and care must be taken not to pulverize the inner seed. When milled, the seed is packaged as unroasted groats, or it is broken into small pieces and packaged as Pocono Cream of Buckwheat. Or the kernel is roasted and packaged as Wolff’s Kasha, where it is sold in kosher sections of supermarkets across America and exported to many countries in Asia, Europe, Canada and Mexico.
Pocono is certified as “organic” and both Pocono and Wolff’s have OU certification. We sought OU certification because it is a sign of quality and adherence to the high standards required for this certification. We believe this has been a significant help in increasing consumption of our buckwheat products. It is a key to our continued success in marketing Wolff’s and Pocono.
There are many ways of serving Wolff’s Kasha…as an appetizer (Stuffed Grape Leaves), side dish instead of rice or potatoes (Kasha Pilaf), as a salad (Kasha Tabbouli), or as a desert pudding. And Pocono Cream of Buckwheat is a nutritious and delicious hot cereal.
As far as nutrition is concerned, buckwheat is the highest of any food in balanced protein in the vegetable kingdom, fights adult onset diabetes, helps lower blood cholesterol and is gluten-free (celiacs love it). Many food manufacturers are now using our buckwheat flour and groats in their finished processed food products. We pack in bulk for them. Also, our products are now served in nursing homes, restaurants and in the instruction kitchens of many culinary schools.
All in all, buckwheat is unique, versatile and a delicious food. And our products are certified OU.
For more information, phone 315-536-3311 or email.
Rabbi Israel Rothenberg is Orthodox Union rabbinic coordinator for Birkett Mills.
John McMath, a member of the Board of Directors and consultant to The Birkett Mills, has extensive marketing experience in the food business. He has been an executive with Pepperidge Farm; Vice President of a division of Young and Rubicam; and owner of the largest organic farm in the United States. He is a member of the boards of directors of several not-for-profit charities. His organic farm, Wild Winds Farms in Naples, NY was visited by well over 1,000,000 people during a 17- year period in the 1970’s and 80’s.