Less productive than other grains on the rich bottomland of Lombardy, buckwheat flour grows excellently on poorer hilly soils, like those of central Asia, where it originated. This is why it is called Tartar wheat in some countries, though in Italy it is called Saracen Wheat or Grano Saraceno.
A relatively new grain, it hasn't been in cultivation for much more than a thousand years. Saying it's a grain is a misstatement as it's not really a grain at all because it's technically, a fruit. It's a tough plant that prospers in poor soil conditions and continues to live through freezing temperatures, droughts and excess rain, which is why it thrives in the Alpine climate of Lombardy.
Common specialties made with buckwheat flour include pizzoccheri pasta, a thick, large pasta, similar to tagliatelle. Buckwheat is also the main ingredient in polenta taranga or dark polenta – a specially of the Valtellina valley. Sciatt is another specialty of Lombardia. Literally translating to "tails" in the local dialect, Sciatt are aptly named, as they are a tail-shaped fritter of buckwheat flour mixed with just a touch of grappa. The fritter is then rolled around a strip of cheese (usually Bitto) and the fried in lard, sugared and eaten as hot as you can stand it.
Nutritionally speaking, buckwheat is a very impressive food. Whole grain buckwheat, even though its protein is relatively low at approximately 11%, the protein buckwheat does have contains the eight essential amino acids and is one of the few "grains" high in lysine. It's also rich in many of the B vitamins as well as the minerals; phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. In addition to this, it's a good oil source of Linoleic acid, one of the two essential fatty acids we must have to be healthy.