Linseed is the seed of the flax plant, which is why it’s also known as flax seed. The seeds are small and have a nutty, slightly bitter taste. This makes them multifunctional. You can add linseed to your porridge, smoothie or salad. Even if you bake cookies or bread, linseed fits in perfectly. The flax plant is the same one that’s used to grow the fiber from which linen has been made for thousands of years.
Linseed comes from the flax plant (also known as Linum usitatissimum), a small plant that can grow up to about two feet in height. It has been cultivated all around the world, but it roots can be traced back to Egypt where it was most likely grown first, pretty much since the beginning of civilization. We say Egypt, but burial chambers in the Fertile Crescent dating back to about 3000 BC depict flax cultivation and contain clothing made from flax fibers. The Fertile Crescent is the boomerang-shaped region of the Middle East that was home to some of the earliest human civilizations, from the Persian Gulf, through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and northern Egypt.
The flax plant can be woven into linen, as its fibers are two to three times as strong as cotton. Its primary use in the North America has long been in the production of clothing, but around the mid-20th century cotton took over. Nowadays, the flax plant is mostly grown to produce seeds. Its nutty-tasting seeds can be eaten on their own or crushed and cold-pressed to release flaxseed oil.
Flaxseed is typically processed by cold pressing to obtain flaxseed oil suitable for human consumption and by solvent extraction to obtain flaxseed oil for industrial purposes. Flaxseed meal is the byproduct remaining after flaxseed has been crushed for oil.
According to AGMRC, Canada is the largest producer of flaxseed in the world, representing about 40 percent of world production. However, other sources state that on-going GM contamination issues have allowed Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan to take over. It is grown on the Canadian prairies for linseed oil, which is used as a drying oil in paints and varnish and in products such as linoleum and printing inks. When combined, China, the United States and India account for another 40 percent of world production.
For decades, it had been common to find linseed in things like cereal or bread. But it’s developed a niche in the health food scene in the past decade or so. People have become knowledgeable about the crop’s many health benefits and now have many ways to get their fill, whether as a supplement or as an ingredient they add to a variety of foods. It may even be part of your pet’s food.
Consumers can buy broken linseed, whole or in the form of oil. In a smoothie, curd cheese or salad it is best to use broken linseed. That way you can absorb the nutrients better. The whole variety is not digested at all and leaves the body as a whole again. You can also break whole linseeds yourself with a mortar or briefly in the food processor.
Linseed oil is best kept in a dry, cool place. The seeds themselves also do well in a kitchen cupboard. It’s better not to heat linseed, because the nutrients will be lost.
As stated, linseed has gained popularity in foodie circles, where it is considered a superfood and staple in the nutrition world, known for being an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. And that’s important for your heart and blood vessels. Flaxseed also contains vitamins B1 and 2, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
Nevertheless, flax or linseed is mainly used to promote bowel movements. The seed is very rich in fiber that fills the intestine with moisture. This stimulates the intestinal passage. Flaxseed also has a cleansing effect on the intestine and makes the seed feel satiated.
The omega-3 fatty acids in linseed are already beneficial for your heart and blood vessels, but the small seeds also contain polyphenols. And the polyphenols are again rich in antioxidants. The fibers in flaxseed also ensure that sugars are absorbed less quickly into the blood, resulting in fewer blood sugar fluctuations.
According to AGMRC, competition for flax production acres will continue to be stiff as high corn prices drive growers’ to plant more corn acres. Expansion of the flax market is most likely to occur from increased demand for human consumption and environmentally friendly industrial uses. PremiumCrops states that to grow linseed without having first locked into a price, or to depend on achieving high quality, is to take a huge gamble with the odds stacked against success. Buyers can benefit from options like fixed prices and premiums.