As Daren and I traveled the countryside from Linköping to Copenhagen, Denmark, I suddenly saw a farm field in the distance that was gold. Not really gold, but a vibrant, reflective yellow that almost glowed like the sun. In fact, I had sunglasses on, and it was still bright.
Being a country girl, I guessed that it was in the mustard family. And Daren, seeing a lot of country when coming to visit me, said it was some kind of bean. Well we were both partly right.
It is called “rapsolja” in Swedish or “rapeseed’, or “canola seed”. It’s scientific name is Brassica napus, which puts it in the mustard and cabbage family. Many years ago it only came in a toxic form, but Canada has been a leader in developing it for use for canola oil that we can use for cooking. Canola was the name given to it by the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association, for the non toxic variety. Canada produces 15%, European Union 17%, compared to the US 1%. It is considered an oilseed crop like soybeans, sunflowers, peanuts, and cottonseed. Other uses are for biodiesel, lubricants, and the leaves and stems for livestock feed.
When driving by a field you smell a light pleasant odor. It is sometimes described as the smell of honey. I felt it was like “a diluted smell of lilies”.
Just a little of the smell is pleasant, but living near a field and smelling it could become irritating. Some people think they suffer from allergies from it, but the pollen of the plant is heavy and sticky. So, it is not able to cause allergy problems in the air.
Blooming time is only 14 to 21 days. Then about half of the flowers form seedpods. The crop is harvested in August.
Traveling in Sweden from May 17th to the 20th was the perfect time this year to see the fields in all their glory. Once you have seen a field of canola seed plants, you will never mistake it for any other plant.
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