Originally published January 2016 in Canola Digest
Three Manitoba canola growers are bottling and marketing canola oil with flavour characteristics unique to their own farms. As grapes produce different flavour subtleties in wine based on their “terroir” – a French word that covers soil, topography and climate – so does canola from different regions produce slightly different oil.
Photo courtesy of MCGA
The Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) and the Manitoba Agri-Health Research Network Inc. (MAHRN) are studying virgin, cold-pressed canola oil, meal and co-products from processing as part of a Canadian Climate Advantage Diet (CCAD) project funded by Growing Forward II. The three-year $396,000 project is looking at how the interaction between plant genetics and local growing conditions impacts the nutritional profile, flavour characteristics and end-use qualities of Manitoba-grown canola. MCGA has contributed $10,000 to the project with a goal of adding value and finding innovative uses for Manitoba-grown and processed canola. The venture addresses the keen interest consumers have in local food, ‘terroir’ and virgin cold-pressed oils.
The three farmers involved to date are: Brian Chorney of East Selkirk, Jack Froese of Winkler and Larry Bohdanovich of Grandview. They all grow the same variety but, surprisingly, the look, taste and even the nutritional profile of each oil is different. The East Selkirk Vintage has a higher iron content. The Grandview oil has a higher vitamin A number, is the strongest in flavour and has the deepest gold colour. Variations also exist in the percentage of crude oil extracted (33.9 – 39.5%) and clarified oil recovered (68.14 – 69.5%). East Selkirk has the highest rates. (Note that cold-pressing cannot extract as much oil from the seed, resulting in a high-oil meal.)
Photo courtesy of MCGA
These unique, cold-pressed oils were test marketed at both the retail and food service level with highly favourable results. They are being embraced for salad oils, drizzles and a Canadian-grown alternative to extra-virgin olive oil.
The 2015 Vintages, prominently labeled with each growing area, will be available in early 2016 at five Winnipeg Red River Coops as well as the Winkler Co-op. These new virgin canola oils are also part of the Buy Manitoba Program. Such distinctive specialty oils demand a premium and sell at 20 times the price of conventional canola oil.
The long-term goal of this project is to develop on-farm enterprises and small and medium-sized business product lines. “It’s always exciting to see innovation in agriculture and Manitoba canola growers are definitely excited about growing future prospects for canola in Manitoba,” says Ellen Pruden, education and promotions manager with MCGA.
Terroir (ter-war): A term most often associated with grapes and wine, this is the special set of characteristics expressed in agricultural products when the geography, geology and climate of a location interacts with plant genetics. As a result of this project, we now know terroir exists in Manitoba-grown canola.
Cold-pressed oils: Obtained by mechanically pressing and grinding the seed at a slow speed. Cooling methods are in place to ensure the temperature does not exceed 60 C during this process.