Flax is a plant which flowers and produces seeds for consumption. Flax is also called linseed which is the term more widely known for flax outside of North America. Seeds are smooth and shiny and range in colour from golden to brown.
Fields of flax with flowers in bloom are light blue-purple. Farmers like it because it provides a strong yield on their investment and serves crop rotations well. Not to mention is breaks up disease and insect populations.
(Source: Flax Council of Canada https://flaxcouncil.ca/ )
The edible part of flax are the seeds. They are available in whole seed or milled. Oil can be extracted from flex seed. It has a delicate freshness to it. It is bottled in amber colour bottles and should be stored in the fridge to prevent rancidity. It is produced using cold-pressing method like olive oil and canola oil.
Flax products can also be used in animal feed. Non-edible flax straw include fabric like linen and lace. It is considered an up and coming eco-friendly fibre for use in manufacturing.
In order to receive the highly nutritional benefits of flax, the seeds need to be cracked, popped or milled. Basically whole seeds need to be chewed to open the seed.
Flax is a very good source of Omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic fatty acid). The little seeds pack a punch of very healthy plant fats. Only a small amount (around 1 tablespoon) is excellent. They also contain a lot of protein and fibre.
This ancient crop is believed to have originated in the Middle Eastern regions of the world. In ancient Rome, flax were enjoyed as a delicacy. At the time, they were used for the medicinal value in treating respiratory illness. (The Secrets of the Seed: Vegetables, Fruits and Buts by Barbara Friedlander p 173)
It was one of the first crops to be brought to Canada (Quebec) with production believed to have been in the early 1600's. The government's Experimental Farms tried breeding it and then along with cereals was one of the first crops that moved West to the Prairies.
Ways to Cook
Flax seed is rarely eaten alone. It is mostly used in granolas, muffins, cookies, breads, waffles, energy bars, crackers and other baked goods. It has a slight nuttiness and adds a rich but somewhat earthy taste.
Many flax recipes are designed to incorporate flax seed for its nutritional value. Many doctors and nutritionists recommend adding one tablespoon to one thing each day.
Flax seeds produce a gel-like substance (similar to chia seeds) when added to water (hydrocolloid). That mixture is used an a popular egg replacer in vegan recipes or for eggless diets.