Flax, also called as common flax or linseed, is a flowering plant from the genus of Linum. It is one of the oldest crops that has been cultivated since the Upper Paleolithic era. But, its fiber was first introduced as a textile material rather than its seeds as a food. Hence, where the term “linen” came from. Its seeds, known as flaxseeds, were just first cultivated in Babylon in 3000 BC. Its oil, known as linseed oil, also became a popular component of wood varnish, oil paints, putties, and linoleum. And although flax was extensively cultivated in ancient Egypt, it has also been widely used in many parts of the world.
Moreover, flaxseeds provide a lot of nutrients. In fact, it’s considered a superfood as well. Its color ranges from brown to golden brown. And, while both provide a mild nutty flavor, the brown ones have a subtle earthy flavor in addition.
- Flax was used to wrap mummies in Egypt.
- Flax produces bisexual flowers, which means they contain both types of reproductive organs. Thus, it can perform self-pollination.
- Canada has a flax council. The Flax Council of Canada aims to promote Canadian flax and its byproducts for nutritional and industrial uses.
- Flaxseed is a nutrition powerhouse. It’s rich in Omega-3s, lignans, and fiber.
Flaxseed Buying Guide
Flax seeds can be easily found in almost any grocery store. But, it can be quite confusing to know which ones to buy. Thus, here are some helpful tips on how to buy flax products:
- Flax produces fibers, oils, and seeds. The fibers are used in making linen fabrics. Flaxseed oil can be used in medicine, cosmetics, and food. It can even be used as a cooking oil. Thus, flaxseed oils are sold in both industrial and food-grade forms. Flaxseeds, on another note, is typically consumed as food.
- Flaxseeds come in two colors: golden brown and dark brown. And, they can come in either whole, crushed, or milled.
- Flax Seeds have a shorter shelf-life. Thus, it is better to buy only what you need. In addition, opt for whole seeds and just grind it right before you eat. If you choose to buy the pre-ground meal for convenience, use it up quickly as it can go rancid in a couple of weeks after opening the package.
- Regardless if you’re buying the whole flaxseed, oil, or ground meal, choose the ones that come in opaque, vacuum-packed bags. Flax products are sensitive to light; hence, it can damage the nutrients and it can spoil the oil. In addition, milled flax seeds should be kept at a cool temperature; don’t choose the ones that aren’t refrigerated.
- Buy from a reputable source.
- As always, edible seeds from local food vendors and artisans in farmers’ markets are better than the mass-produced ones. Here, you’ll get close to no preservatives and the ingredients are usually organic. Their products are also made in small batches and you might be able to get free samples along the way. Feel free to check some of the local producers here at our Texas Real Food website.
Flaxseed Production & Farming in Texas
Flax thrives in temperate and subtropical regions like Belgium, France, and Russia. Canada is the leading producer of flaxseed in the world, accounting for 40% of the world’s production – the same percentage for China, India, and the United States, combined! And speaking of the United States, nowadays, flax is almost exclusively grown in the states of Minnesota and North Dakota. Despite that, flax can still be grown in the state of Texas. As a matter of fact, it was first grown here commercially in 1938, reaching its zenith in 1949. Apparently, multiple droughts in the late 1950s retarded the production until it has ceased to exist. Linseed oils were also replaced by cheaper petroleum-based oil products. Thus, since flax hasn’t been grown in the state for quite a long time, the only seeds available nowadays are the spring-type flax varieties that came from Canada and the Northern USA. Still, the seeds are adaptive to most soil types, especially to deep, fertile loam soils. Fortunately, the Coastal Prairie and southern regions of the state provide these soil types.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Fortunately, most of the store-bought flax seeds are pure and organic. However, some conventional flax plants are sprayed with chemical pesticides, fungicides, and even chemical fertilizers. These substances soak in the seeds and cannot be washed off. Thus, it’ll always be better to buy the ones without chemicals. Nevertheless, here are some unharmful additives that you might be able to see on the ingredients list:
- Vitamins and Minerals – Sometimes, a product is either enriched or it contains enriched ingredients. Enriching food means that the nutrients that were lost during processing, such as refinement, are added back into the product to restore its original vitamin and mineral levels. For flax products, some vitamins and minerals include the following: Alpha Linoleic Acid (LNA), Linoleic Acid (LA), Oleic Acid, and Flaxseed Particulate.
- Natural Fiber – These are additives that are used to intensify the fiber content of the product. For flax items, some natural fiber includes the following: Wheat bran, oat bran, senna leaves, psyllium husk, and edible cactus (Opuntia Ficus).
- Extractives – These additives are made with essential oils or condensed flavor essence of different spices. It can be mixed with solvents such as alcohol, or water. They act as a flavor enhancer and it also contributes to a longer shelf-life. Thus, flax products might include the following: orange fruit extract, pineapple fruit extract, apple fruit extract, and grapefruit extract.
Flaxseeds are commonly sold by the pound. They’re sold in pouches, paper bags, plastic jars, or canisters. Flaxseed oils, on another note, are sold in bottles and even capsules.
Flaxseeds are typically consumed raw. It also makes a great and healthy snack. But, it can also be added to water, juices, salads, cereals, yogurts, or smoothies. When mixing flax seeds with liquid, remember the 1:3 ratio. Add a tablespoon of the seeds for every three tablespoons of water. This ratio is also used to make a good vegan alternative for recipes that calls for eggs. This superfood is also a great way to increase your daily fiber; the recommended two tablespoons a day already makes a big difference. Meanwhile, flaxseed meals are traditionally used in baking. And, flaxseed oil can be used as a cooking oil or a salad dressing oil.
Home-cultivated flax seeds should be kept in airtight containers like mason jars. Same as the unopened, store-bought ones, they should be stored in a dark, dry, and cool place away from sunlight and away from hot and humid zones like stoves, grills, or ovens. Following that, whole flaxseeds can last for 6 months while ground flaxseeds can last for only a week past their expiration dates. To prevent volatile oils from penetrating the seeds, which can result in oxidation and rancidity, keep it refrigerated. There, it can retain its freshness for another 3-4 months. For optimum results, press the air out of the pouch and tightly seal it. Flax seeds can also be frozen to prolong its shelf life, which could last up to a year. Opened packages of flaxseeds, however, can only last for 2-3 weeks.
Let’s get baking!
Indeed, it’s convenient to just simply add a tablespoon or two of flaxseeds to anything. But today, we’re going to step up a bit and create something amazing. Below is a quick recipe for flax muffins that you and your family will surely love:
Yield: 10 servings
Dry: Combine the following in a separate bowl:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup flax seeds, preferably freshly ground
- ½ cup oat bran
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 ⅓ tsp ground cinnamon
Liquid: Combine the following in a separate bowl:
- ½ cup skim milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ¾ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
Toppings: Combine the following in a separate bowl:
- 1 cup carrots, shredded
- 1 large apple, peeled, shredded
- ⅓ cup raisins
- ⅔ cup mixed nuts, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF or 175ºC.
- Grease a muffin pan or line them with muffin liners.
- Making sure that you have three separate bowls as of now (dry, liquid, toppings), carefully incorporate the liquid ingredients to the dry ones. Once they’re homogenous, add the toppings and gently mix.
- Using an ice-cream scooper, fill the muffin cups two-thirds full with the batter. Wipe any excess batter out and bake for 15-20 minutes (rotating halfway), or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin’s center comes out clean.