review: camelina oil


Well, this one will be quick.

On paper, in theory: it looks amazeballs.

In person and in practice… um. It smells like turnips.

This is not unexpected, as the plant whence the oil derives is in the turnip family. But then again so is canola / rapeseed, and it (or at least, the refined food-grade sort) doesn’t smell of anything.

I used the camelina oil on hands. A thicker oil, took longer than avocado and nearly as long as olive to sink in. Moisturised hands. But they still smelled of turnips.

I tried it in the bath but then had to wash it off. Guess what? Yes, turnips.

It’s not just that I like my skin oils to smell as far as possible of nothing. I do. But I also like some oils that smell of something: greener smells, like avocado or olive or hemp seed. And some of the slightly nutty ones, like macadamia or sesame.

But turnip?

This may be European prejudice. It may be collective unconscious at work, generations of ancestors for whom turnip = winter root vegetable, and not one of the preferred ones. It’s what you eat when there’s nothing left, all your store cupboards are bare, you’re starving. Add it to stews to pad them out, and hope that other flavours will balance this one out. And in most of my north-west and central European genetic past, turnips get boiled and are not in what you’d call nice tasty fragrant dishes.

It’s not that I dislike root vegetables. I eat a lot of them: potatoes, obviously; sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, celeriac. Cooked in many ways.

But. Turnips. Nope.

Got any turnip recipes to share, that transform this vegetable to giddy heights in a different alchemical dimension? The way that roasting cauliflower is a transformation and a revelation? Please share.

In the meantime, we’re trying to figure out how to use this damn stuff in the kitchen, in a way that doesn’t make anything it touches taste and smell of turnip. I should have guessed this would happen: the main Canadian sellers do three versions of the stuff, the other two are flavoured/scented. Now I see why.

Makers: relabelling something as false flax is one thing; making it sound like tea and flowers (camelina > camellia) is a good bit of PR; allowing “gold of pleasure” to stick is nice, might be good on the sexual lubricant market as this stuff has slip and that slip stays.

But, especially if you’re going to stick with that closeness to “camellia”: the smell has to go. Needs to be refined in some way to remove it, whilst maintaining all the good fatty acid content (high omegas, and very high omega-3:6 proportions, hence interest for ingestion).

Until that time: not buying it again.

Remaining indisputable good points about camelina oil:

  • sustainable production, grows in a range of temperate climates (through to Siberia, which speaks volumes for hardiness), undemanding, needs little water and nitrogen, easy to grow and havest, doesn’t need fancy equipment, makes for a good rotation crop thus helping to rest and revive soil
  • bee-friendly: cohabits well with insects so doesn’t need the kind of insecticides that also kill bees
  • good substitute for other oilseed crops that are less environmentally friendly
  • good substitute, as an oil crop, for hydrocarbons (and, obviously, whales)
  • may well be fine used on skin, hair, etc. in a blend with other oils; probably in small quantities; and possibly with something else to mask the scent. Mind you, some oils like rosehip would already do a good masking-job without having to resort to (eeeps) fragrance. Yes, even essential oils: still fragrance, and include some of the most irritating chemicals around…

turnip love

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