I actually found a few Calfornia buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) flowers in bloom on the trail to Eagle Rock, in Topanga Canyon State Park, last weekend. This really speaks to the amazing biodiversity of this plant. I’ve been harvesting it since September, and will continue to do so until the rains wash the seeds away. This extremely wide range in harvesting time isn’t as common in cultivated plants, which are designed to perform under a more narrow set of conditions.
When you are 100% certain that you have correctly identified Calfornia buckwheat, you can begin to harvest it. I think the leaf structure is similar to another common plant of the chaparal, chemise (Adenostoma fasciculatum). And although the seed head balls of the buckwheat are distinctly rust colored, the seed head balls of black sage (Salvia mellifera) could be confusing to the beginner. So again, once you are 100% confident of your identification, harvest the seeds and clean out any sticks, twigs, or insects. Place the seeds and chaffe into a coffee grinder, spice grinder, blender, or mortar and pestle. Grind until you have a fine flour. This flour does not have gluten, so you will need to mix it with a gluten containing flour if you wish to use it in a similar manner.
I learned to make chapati over an open fire while living in India. If you do not have an open fire, or gas stove in your kitchen, simply skip the open fire method described below and let them cook longer in the pan. Chapati’s are a bit lighter than tortillas, and I’ve found they’re good for the more fibrous consistency of the buckwheat.
California buckwheat chapati
1 c California buckwheat flour
1 c unbleached white flour, or flour of your choice
clove of garlic
Mix California buckwheat flour and unbleached white flour in medium-sized bowl. Pour in small amounts of water until you have a pliable dough. Separate dough into 5 separate balls and cover with a hand towel. Take one dough ball out and roll it out onto a well floured flat surface using a rolling pin. Roll as thinly as you can and place into a hot pan (I like to use cast iron) for roughly 10 seconds on each side. Then use tongs to pick up your chapati, move your pan to the side, and place the chapati directly over the open flame until it puffs up. Make sure to fire both sides and watch the air bubbles expand. I like to then brush them with butter, rub them with a garlic clove that has been cut in half, and lightly sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.
Have fun experimenting!