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May 18, 2012
Camelina Oil

Just when you think you've tried every kind of exotic gourmet oil on the market, along comes Camelina Oil. And this one is not squeezed from the nut of some rare 2,000-year-old tree found only in the Peruvian mountains. As a matter of fact, it's a Canadian product, from Saskatchewan no less, although its lineage could be just as old.

Cold-pressed from the seed of the ancient camelina sativa grain, the oil has a bright yellow colour, the nutty aroma of almonds, and a pleasantly faint taste of asparagus that makes it excellent for the table. However with its high smoking point of 475 F (grapeseed oil is 425), and remarkable long stable shelf life of 12 - 24 months (compared to 6 months for olive oil), it serves even better as a cooking oil. For thousands of years, these were properties known to generations of cooks in Northern Europe, and if we are not familiar with camelina oil today, it is only because it was pushed out of the market by more modern hybrid grains -- ironically because Camelina's high level of unsaturated fat made it too difficult to hydrogenate for the production of margarine.

Camelina is also certified non-GMO and an excellent source of fatty acids, and these qualities are behind the oil's return to a market driven by the health-conscious shopper. Since its reintroduction in 2011, sales have been booming. Cooks love it because it is rare to find a cold-pressed, high omega-3 oil that can withstand high cooking temperatures, and camelina oil offers this due to the stabilizing effect of its high Vitamin E content. Barbecue enthusiasts especially like the fact that camelina does not go cloudy or congeal when refrigerated, making it perfect for marinades. Sustainability minded customers take confidence in a code attached to each bottles, whereby the oil can be traced back to the very field where the seeds were grown.

For all this we can give thanks to a group of Saskatchewan farmers (Colin Rosengren, Ron Emde and Dan Vandenhurk). They stumbled across camelina while looking for an unpatented grain that could be grown to produce biodiesel oil, but had the foresight to recognize its value to the gourmet, cooking and health food market.

Priced at $24.99 for a 500 mL bottle, it is currently sold online under the threefarmers label, and will soon be available in wellness-focused grocery stores across the West.

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