Who doesn’t love extra virgin olive oil on everything? Drizzled over tomatoes, dreaming of sitting in the sun in Spain or Italy with a glass of chilled wine. Mmmmm…
But wait a minute. We don’t live in Spain or Italy and the current view out of our window looks more like winter than the middle of summer.
Oh no, that was winter. Anyway, it does feel like winter and the heating is on. I know we live in the UK, but it’s June for god’s sake. Sigh*
*Weather update: it is now around 28°C proving that the British weather has no sense of humour whatsoever.
So onto the first swap of X for Why? and one of the main reasons we came up with the idea for writing up our experiences. Oil isn’t necessarily the most logical place to start, but it really helped us think in a different way about things.
Let’s start with the wonder of Olive Oil. Other than tasting amazing, olive oil has always been lauded as the oil that’s best for you – lowers cholesterol, high in antioxidants etc. We’ve used nearly exclusively olive oil for cooking for years, but our recent Indian vegetarian food fad (thanks Fresh India for being AMAZING every time!) meant we’d started using rapeseed oil as well due to it’s higher smoke point (205°C compared to olive oil’s 165°C). That and because Meera Sodha told us to in Fresh India.
We’d been discussing food miles one day and started looking at food in the pantry (yes we have a pantry, and yes we are total nerds when it comes to daily conversations) – when we came to the oil we noticed that whilst our olive oil said it was produced and packed in Spain, our rapeseed oil (Mazola) didn’t have any country specified. If something isn’t specified, then we’re always a tad suspicious. So we went on to the Sainsbury’s website and it still didn’t say where it was produced or packed. So we went to the Mazola website and it still didn’t say where it was produced or packed. The plot thickens…
We then went onto the Edible Oils website, who own the Mazola brand and guess where that took us…back to the Mazola website! Without getting all conspiracy-theory about it, we found it really strange that we couldn’t find something as simple as where the rapeseed was grown and packaged.
We of course didn’t leave it there. An email was sent to Edible Oils and they replied saying that “the rapeseed oil is primarily sourced from the UK, then other EU countries. It is refined and packed in the UK.” We did reply to thank them and ask what percentage is sourced from the UK and what the other EU countries were, but they didn’t reply.
No matter the outcome, it had already started us down the road of thinking that there must be some British rapeseed oil that we could buy, since we see the beautiful yellow fields all over the UK whilst travelling around. But first of all, the health benefits of olive oil needed to be tested. So we asked Mr Google to compare olive oil and rapeseed oil, and lo-and-behold, rapeseed oil is apparently better for you. It’s lower in saturated fat, has ten times the amount of omega 3, is higher in vitamin E and has a higher smoke point. The one thing it loses out against olive oil is that it doesn’t contain polyphenols like olive oil – that’s the antioxidant part (yes, we had to Google what they were too).
During our research the BBC told us that “homegrown rapeseed oil has been heralded the ‘British olive oil’ but its flavour is more earthy and nutty than fruity”, so we felt we were onto a winner. A quick search on Sainsbury’s showed us that there were indeed quite a few British rapeseed oil manufacturers being sold in posh glass bottles, just like olive oil. But best of all, one of the products was produced just a few minutes down the road from us.
Our local producer, Fussels, grow their rapeseed in the Somerset countryside just south of Bath. We went went to see them and they told us that any additional rapeseed they source is so local they can see it growing from their warehouse. Swapping to locally grown rapeseed oil has meant a food mile reduction from Spain (approx 2,000km away) to 5 minutes down the road – 9.9km to be precise. Not a bad start at all. And to even minimise this journey, we bought in bulk so we won’t need to revisit for many, many months.
Whilst we appreciate that not many people have access to oil grown quite so locally, we did check in our tiny, local Sainsbury’s and you can buy rapeseed oil from Northumberland & the Scottish Borders, Northamptonshire, Somerset and Suffolk. We reckon there must be a rapeseed oil grower / producer in most areas in the UK and we would encourage you to do some searching. We didn’t realise we’d be able to buy oil produced a couple of miles from our house until we looked for it!
Of course, one final thing we should comment on is the taste – it is more nutty and has a stronger taste than olive oil and we think it’s delish.
We still love you olive oil, but like Uzo, that garlicky-tomato-toast you get in Barcelona and baguettes, you are at your best when you’re playing on home turf.