Valtellina, in Lombardy, is famous for its production of "grano saraceno" (buckwheat flour). Despite its name, it is not actually a cereal (belonging to the genus Polygonum fagopyrum), but a herbaceous plant similar to rhubarb. However, commercially it is considered on a par with cereals, and in terms of its nutritional characteristics it is similar to graminaceous plants (wheat, corn, rice and so on). Before corn came on the scene, but indeed also afterwards, buckwheat was used to prepare varieties of polenta and pasta. In Valtellina, the flour obtained from the grain is used to produce a type of pasta known as pizzoccheri, as well as polenta and bread.
Buckwheat, which most likely originated in China and reached Europe in the 13th century, is a precious foodstuff thanks to its high content of iron, minerals and B-group vitamins. The seed is pyramid-shaped and the flour obtained can be used to make excellent crêpes, as well as the products made in Valtellina. The flour is sold ready-packed and the only thing to check when purchasing it is the expiry date. This rule also applies to pizzoccheri, which are generally sold pre-packaged.