Spring has been a long time coming this year. It seems that cloudy and cool has prevailed which makes it hard to believe it is the end of May with the temperature stuck in the 50s and 60s (12-18C). But there is one thing that reassures the fact we are headed into summer, and that is the vibrant yellow raps fields that are blanketing the countryside of Skåne right now.
Roughly the third week of May, the raps fields begin to bloom and alter the landscape in a glorious way for 2-3 weeks. The seas of gold play against the green fields and blue sky to make for a truly spectacular site. I experienced the blooming raps fields for the first time on a trip to Sweden in May of 2006. On that visit to Europe we drove down to Prague and the gold of the raps fields carried on from Sweden, to Denmark, and down into Germany. I have many not-so-great photos shot from the car window on that trip, but I couldn’t stop taking them because the fields were such a fantastic site.
Commonly known in English as canola oil, raps oil is certainly not unique to Sweden, but it is popular enough here to be termed “the Swedish Olive Oil.” Although rapeseed has been grown in Sweden and Europe for many years, it wasn’t until the 1970s that raps oil became a cooking oil. Today it is one of the most common in part because of its versatility. Raps oil can be used to sauté, bake, or fry and is well-suited to sauces, mayonnaise, dressings, and marinades.
Raps oil comes in both warm and cold-pressed forms. Warm-pressed processes extract all of the oil from the rapeseeds but alter the nutritional value and neutralize the taste and color of the oil. The cold-pressed process results in a more expensive product since not all of the oil can be extracted, but it preserves the intense, golden color and a nutty taste that is reminiscent of almond. Cold-pressed raps oil retains healthy, essential fatty acids with Omega 3, 6 and 9 that can help to reduce cholesterol and maintain heart health. It is also a natural source of vitamin E and is significantly lower in saturated fat than olive oil. Raps oil is even beneficial to the skin and can be found in creams for dry and sensitive skins.
Above: Raps oil at the market; warm pressed raps oil, cold pressed raps oil, and extra-virgin olive oil
If you take a peek around the internet, you will find evidence of a battle regarding health concerns and raps oil. I found this particular link from the trusted source of the Mayo Clinic helpful in regard to dispelling the negative rumors.
Whether you call it raps or canola oil, love it or hate it, there is no question that the raps fields are a phenomenal site. As long as I live in this part of the world I will look forward to the annual arrival of the seas of gold, and should I ever move away, I will fondly remember their splendor.