Have You Noticed More Rapeseed Fields This Year?

Oil seed rape

I have. Apparently, more UK farmers are growing the frankly hideous yellow crop this year than ever before because the price they can get for it has shot up. Can’t really blame them; it’s about time farmers had a good cash crop. Apparently, Europe’s early frosts have meant theirs has suffered, but ours is booming and we now have an opportunity to boost the economy by selling ours to them.

Farmers may benefit, of course, but what about people who don’t just hate what it does to our landscape, (see the pictures below in the Daily Mail aerial photos) but actually react to it? Many people apparently react to the pollen as they would any other flower, but there is also a problem with respiratory issues caused by VOC gases the crop gives off – that’s that horrible smell you get wafting into your house or car windows when you’re near it.

Apparently, studies have shown that rapeseed pollen is quite large and doesn’t travel that far, which is a good thing, but there is evidence that atopic people, those with reactivity already, will find it another thing to react to. Great.

Rapeseed Oil Nutrition 

In terms of nutrition, rapeseed oil has useful levels of the monounsaturated fats and more omega 3 than olive oil. However, it is often laden with pesticide spray and genetically-modified so is not great unless it is coldpressed and non-GM. Most canola (rapeseed) oil in the US is GM, I’m told.

It doesn’t break down into transfats on heating as easily as other oils, like olive oil, so is good for baking.  I did discover, when looking this up, though, that interestingly avocado is the best oil for frying because it breaks down at a much higher temperature than either olive or rapeseed oil. That would be pretty expensive though, wouldnt it?! Safflower oil also has a very high breakdown temperature, as does coconut oil.

I found a great comparison chart for oils that suggests which to use for frying, salads, baking, stirfries etc that you can download for free. You can get a breakdown of how they made the chart too here.

In general, I agree pretty much with this statement in a Daily Telegraph piece The Rapeseed Revolution:

“We are confused about fats,” says Al Overton, who buys gourmet oils for the organic supermarket chain Planet Organic. “People are always asking me what to cook with. The simple answer is, keep a range of oils. Keep coconut or a similar saturated fat for heavy frying, olive and rapeseed oils for light frying and salads, and pumpkin and avocado oils for dressings and dips.”

When it comes to cooking at high temperatures, rather than reaching for the gourmet oil, Overton believes we should be returning to the heavy fats traditionally used by our grandmothers.

“More and more, we are realising that the food scientists who scared us away from cooking with certain fats got it wrong. It was our grannies – who cooked with goose fat or butter, ghee or coconut oil, depending on where they came from – who had the right idea.”

The article also suggests we try things like pumpkin, hemp and grapeseed. I use the two former ones in dressings and grapeseed in baking as it has no real taste.

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