Rapeseed oil has been winning over home cooks and professional chefs for a good few years now. The nutty, grassy flavour and golden colour means it can be used to either cook with or finish dishes in just the same way as olive oil. As spring turns into summer, fields up and down the UK turn a bright, vibrant yellow as the plants that produce this seed begin to flower.
We travelled to one of the many farms in Britain that produce rapeseed oil from plant to bottle to see how these colourful plants are harvested, cold-pressed, filtered and finally bottled. With just a few simple pieces of equipment and lots of time and patience, artisan producers can create an award-winning culinary oil that’s in high demand among foodies across the UK.
The process starts with fields of oilseed rape plants being sown in September. Growing the same crops year after year in the same spot means the soil becomes less and less suitable for farming, so farmers vary the crops they grow, and oilseed rape is often used as the plants can replace nutrients in the soil absorbed by other crops such as vegetables. Once the flowers have bloomed and the seeds have formed, everything is harvested towards the end of summer (depending on the weather). The seeds are then stored, ready to be pressed.
The farm we visited uses the cold-pressing extraction method, which is the most natural way to create rapeseed oil. The seeds are gently squeezed in a press until the oil is released.