Foods & Ingredients

What is Canola oil?

The holiday season is a wonderful time for family and food. One year, as cooking was in full swing my dad help up a bottle of Canola oil and asked what plant it came from. The story behind the canola oil name is one of my favorite random food facts.

Canola oil actually comes from rapeseed (Brassica napus), a yellow flowering plant related to the mustard plant. I wonder what the person who named that plant was thinking. It is an awkward mouthful.

Rapeseed/Canola seeds are round and small, a little bigger than a pin head. The oil has a gross green color and distinctive flavor as well. Because of these factors, rapeseed oil was not used for food purposes until Canola was created through breeding and genetic engineering.

Canola stands for Canadian oil, low acid. The low acid refers to less than 2% of erucic acid, a fatty acid with the molecular formula of C22H42O2. Canola oil also has much lower levels of glucosinolates that contribute to the unacceptable flavor of rapeseed oil.

Photo by: Marek Luty

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