Posted by: Bystander PJ24 APR 2013
If spring had not been delayed this year, many British fields would now be turning bright yellow with the flowers of oilseed rape. The oil from the seeds of this plant has a variety of uses but is best known as a general purpose culinary oil.
However, while other cooking oils are prominently labelled with their origin — olive oil, sunflower oil, walnut oil, etc — rapeseed oil tends to be described coyly as “pure vegetable oil”, with its label sometimes explaining in a small typesize that it is derived from the seeds of “the Brassica napus plant” rather than from the seeds of oilseed rape.
In North America, suppliers of culinary rapeseed oil have gone one stage further by inventing the name canola oil, derived from “Canada” and “-ola”, based on the Latin oleum (oil).
It seems that manufacturers and distributors of rapeseed oil have a problem with the word “rape”. But labelling it simply as vegetable oil is a shame, because this description could give the impression that it is an inferior oil suitable only for those who cannot afford a classier product.
On the contrary, while rapeseed oil may be the least expensive culinary oil, it is one of the healthiest available. It is rich in monounsaturated fats and has the lowest saturated fat of any common cooking oil. It also contains 10 times as much omega-3 fatty acids as olive oil.
Because rapeseed oil can be heated to high temperatures without degrading, it is also one of the most versatile of culinary oils. And since it is derived from a plant that can be grown in the UK, its production helps to boost the British economy.
Foodies have claimed that the rather bland flavour of rapeseed oil makes it unsuitable for salad dressing and dips. But since most recipes for such tracklements include ingredients that tend to overpower the delicate flavour of edible oils, this argument does not wash with me. I shall continue to buy “pure vegetable oil” for its versatility and its value for money.