Inland from Crail, spring and summer see the fields patchworked with the golden flowers of oilseed rape. This year’s Crail Food Festival sees not one but two cold pressed rapeseed producers joining the diverse range of local food producers on offer, testament to the oil’s rising popularity in recent years.
Supernature and Summer Harvest are among the seven producers of cold pressed rapeseed oil now found across Scotland, with over 30 in the UK. Interest has boomed with more and more people looking for a more local, healthier and versatile staple in their store cupboard. Lynn Mann of Supernature set up the business with her husband Chris four years ago. Based at Carrington Barns Farm in Midlothian, the family farm was looking to diversify following 160 years of growing arable crops such as barley and wheat and commercial oilseed rape.
The Manns chose a spring variety of rapeseed, the only producer growing it at present in Scotland. This type of oilseed rape results in a lower yield but has a light, buttery flavour that lends itself well for infusing with aromatics such as mint, chilli and lemongrass. With a more authentic taste than most, the oils and infusions went down well with their first customers at local farmers markets leading them to develop the range to satisfy demand. As well as continuing to sell direct to the public they now supply hotels, farm shops, delis, Scottish Cooperative stores and Scotmid. The continued evolution of the range of flavoured oils has culminated in their white truffle oil being awarded the coveted three stars Great Taste Award and is now stocked in Harrods.
Scotland’s climate lends itself well to growing rapeseed oil as the crop prefers the cooler climates and long daylight hours found north of the border. Supernature plants a quarter of their land each year and have started expanding to a neighbouring farm. The spring variety is sown in April, with the flowers blooming in June and July. The pods are left to ripen and the green seeds eventually change to black, containing the precious oil. The crop is harvested in September and the extraction process is simple; the seeds are cold pressed to extract the oil, with no heat treatment or chemicals involved. This means that yields are lower, but the end result is a pure product retaining all of its natural goodness and superior taste.
Summer Harvest of Ferneyfold Farm, Perthshire is also very much a family business with its roots in family farming. Looking for a change of career away from the 9-5, former IT consultant Mark Bush and his wife Maggie left London and returned to Maggie’s father’s farm in Scotland. They started producing rapeseed oil in 2008 after seeing it down south and spotting a gap in the market. Like Supernature, they launched the product at local farmers’ markets and were overwhelmed with the response from customers. Summer Harvest has since gone on to supply delis, over 200 farm shops, Waitrose in Scotland and have started exporting to the Middle East.
Summer Harvest have also garnered a strong following from Scottish chefs including Mark Greenaway, Neil Forbes, Andrew Fairlie and Tom Kitchen who favour it’s clean, nutty flavour and is light on the palate. They also value its local roots as well as versatility in the kitchen. Their teams of chefs have been able to visit the farm to see how the oil is grown and produced so they know where it comes from and can understand its journey from seed to plate.
Back in the kitchen the high burning point of rapeseed oil means it can be used for frying and roasting in a way that olive oil can’t, yet is light enough to create for sauces and dressings. Mark recommends rubbing it into the skin for the perfect roast chicken, or for making mayonnaise. Supernature suggests pairing their infused oils with complimentary flavours, such as using their garden mint oil to fry lamb chops or to drizzle over fresh peas. Whereas extra virgin olive oil may be the oil of choice in many kitchens both restaurant and domestic, more and more people are now looking for an alternative grown much closer to home.
Its versatility in cooking means it can be used in place of butter or other fats when baking, ideal for the growing number of people reducing their dairy intake. The health benefits of rapeseed oil are
many; it’s low in saturated fats and contains naturally occurring antioxidants as well as high levels of Omega-3, ten times that of olive oil and beneficial for heart health. It’s also a source of Omega-6 and Omega-9 and a rich source of vitamin E.
Both Lynn and Mark have seen customer awareness increase over the space of a few years. At the first food shows and markets they visited cold pressed rapeseed oil was a novelty. Now, both are award winners and customers are coming back with their own suggestions for how to use it and looking for new flavours and infusions. With the growth of the market in Scotland the eight Scottish producers have formed the Scottish Rapeseed Oil Collective to promote cold pressed rapeseed oil both locally and further afield. Both Supernature and Summer Harvest are part of a growing breed of local food producers where the focus is on producing a quality, great tasting product. Starting small but with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, both businesses have been able to grow on their own terms, working on every aspect from bottling to branding. Mark has seen his adult son return home to work in the business, before setting up his own food business. For Lynn, she’s become a Women’s Enterprise Ambassador, inspiring others with her experience and success. Both agree that passion and belief in the product are the essential elements when building a successful business. Cold pressed rapeseed oil can be seen to play a similar role in Scotland’s larder, providing a store cupboard staple and starting point for countless recipes to show Scottish produce at its best.
Top Tips for using Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil
- Rub into the skin for perfect roast chicken
- Use in homemade mayonnaise with golden organic egg yolks
- Dress salad leaves with herb-infused rapeseed oil to accompany summer BBQs and picnics
- Use for baking vegetable cakes such as beetroot, courgette or carrot
- Drizzle truffle-infused rapeseed oil over simple fresh pasta with fried mushrooms a grating of hard cheese
- Use instead of goose fat for crispy roast potatoes