The origins and history of linseed and flax

Field of linseed towards gate

The origins of the linseed and flax

Field of linseed in flower
Field of linseed in flower

Linum usitatissimum is just one species of the Linum family. Some are annuals others perennial.  The original ancestor of our domesticated flax and linseed  Linum biienne, was a little wild plant widely spread across Eurasia. It had delicate wiry stems and dainty blue flowers. Way back in history our ancestors  would have found linseed amazingly useful Continue reading

New Zealand Flax

New Zealand Flax, Phormium tenax

Phormium tennax:  New Zealand Flax 

Phormium tenax, New Zealand Flax
New Zealand Flax

New Zealand flax is completely unrelated to common flax and linseed. The fibre of it was used by the Maoris for weaving into coarse fabric, ropes, flooring and baskets but doesn’t have the fine quality of linen.

Outside New Zealand Phormium tennax  is grown as a garden plant. It is a perennial plant. The original species is huge growing up to ten feet but there are also many small cultivars and hybrids. Continue reading

Linnet

Linnets
Linnet, the bird that hovers above linseed. Page from the Complete Book of British Birds
Linnets.  Page from the Complete Book of British Birds

Linnet: the linseed bird

The English name “linnet” derives from French meaning “the bird that hovers above linseed” (or flax the crop which produces linen and linseed). The linnet is a bird of the countryside and agricultural fields. They are mainly brown in colour, the males have  distinctive red markings on the head and breast.  The linet’s scientific name Carduelis cannabina comes from its fondness of another oilseed, hemp. Continue reading

Gold or bronze, yellow or brown?

gold-and-bronze-whole-linseeds

Q: What is the difference between gold and bronze linseed (flax)?

bronze and gold linseed
Bronze and gold linseed are both better for you finely ground

A:The original  variety of linseed (and it was called linseed before it was called flax)  was a brown-bronze coloured seed. Since then many other varies have been developed including gold and most shades in between. There is a lot of mythology surrounding the colour of linseed brought about by misinformation we are going to clear up the myths surrounding linseed (flax). The colour of linseed is nothing to do with them being de-hulled or toasted as some people think; it’s just the way they grow.   Just like you can get green apples and  red apples they are good for you.

Continue reading

Harvesting Linseed and Flax

Flax harst modern 1-600x450

Linseed and flax are grown differently

Both linseed and flax, which are simply different varieties of the same plant, Linum usitatissimum, are traditional crops in the UK but grown for different purposes and the production methods are significantly different Continue reading

Linseed stops cows belching methane

Cow female black white

Daily Telegraph story: Linseed stops cows belching methane

Essential fatty acid for health and prevents greenhouse gasses

daily-telegraph-crow-belch
Linseed reduces greenhouse gasses; stops methane production in cows and cattle

The Daily Telegraph printed the story this Tuesday 29th March 2011: (Here’s a link) I don’t think this is an early April Fool as it is such a good article on linseed’s health benefits for people, including improving the human digestion and that “it also contains Omega 3, a fatty acid that is essential to normal growth and health.” Continue reading

Omega-3: why flax oil is better than krill oil

The oceans' wildlife is conserved by use of sustainable linseed omega-3

Linseed omega-3 can be healthier than EPA & DHA fish oils and helps conserve the oceans

Puffins and conserved by use of sustainable product such as linseed oil over krill oil
Puffin

ALA works perfectly well for people as a source of omega-3 for people. Cats and a few isolated fish-eating communities have lost the gene to process omega-3 into longer chain omega-3’s.  The rest of us do very well on omega-3 from linseed (flaxseed) oil. It is ALA which is so essential for health we are equipped with enzymes to turn EPA into ALA.  It has been shown linseed (flaxseed) oil, a sustainable source of omega-3 can work better than fish oil.  Linseed oil can have more benefit than fish was proved in a recent study the Holism Study, abstract, website. Continue reading

How a shirt grew in the field

Book how a shirt of linen grew in the field

Children’s book

by K. D Ushinskiai, adapted by Marguerita Rudolph and illustrated by Yaroslavava

I was introduced to this lovely book by a fellow stall holder at Borough Market; it was his favourite book as a child and he brought it in to show me. I loved it too and recommend it to anyone who reads to their children.

boy in field scan Continue reading

Linseed & flax on cigarette & chocolate cards

Cigarette card: harvesting flax

Flax and linseed traditionally important crops

Lin, linseed or flax from a French chocolate card
Lin, linseed or flax from a French chocolate card

Due to the importance of the linseed and flax as crops they were popular subjects for 20th century chocolate and cigarette cards throughout Europe. The pictures shown are from French chocolate bars and cigarettes.  It reflects importance of linseed and flax as crops in the first half of the century. The flowers of both crops are the same, both were grown from Linum usitatissium but harvested  at different stages of maturity. Continue reading