Camelina (Camelina sativa), a member of the mustard family, is a summer annual oilseed plant. Leindotter, False flax and Gold of Pleasure are the popular common names for the crop. Seeds and capsules of the crop have been found in archaeological excavations from the Bronze Age in Scandinavia. The crop was widely grown in Eastern Europe up to the early 1940's but was replaced with the introduction and widespread use of oilseed rape (canola).
The revival of interest in camelina oil is due to its high linolenic acid (38%) content. Linolenic acid is one of the OMEGA-3 fatty acids which are generally found in substantial commercial quantities only in linseed (flax) and fish oils. Camelina offers an opportunity to supply the growing demand for high quality edible oils rich in OMEGA-3 fatty acids. The oil contains 35 to 40% linolenic acid compared to 8% in Canola and 1% or less in soy bean and corn oils. Camelina oil does not deteriorate during refining or storage like linseed (flax) oil or fish oil and can be used in a number of oil based products such as spreads and salad dressings. Camelina oil, unlike linseed and fish oil, is oxidatively stable and palatable.
Health and Nutrition
Camelina sativa, with the popular names leindotter, false flax or gold of pleasure, is a cruciferous oilseed plant . It used to be an important oil crop during the Bronze and
Iron Ages and it is still not clear why it was gradually replaced in the Middle Ages and thereafter. Recently, interest in Camelina sativa has been renewed due to the fact that the crop does not require high inputs of nutrients and pesticides, it grows well in semiarid regions, and in the soil with low fertility. The main product of Camelina sativa is the oil produced by crushing and pressing the seeds, which contain about 30 to 40 % of oil on a dry matter basis . Camelina oils are high, about 50 %, in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Their composition varies with the agrotechnical measures used in their production but primarily linoleic (18:2) and linolenic acid (18:3) are found in the oil recent studies in the field of human nutrition have focused attention on the relative nutritional value of the various oils or fats. A low proportion of saturated fatty acids and a high ratio of OMEGA-3 to OMEGA-6 fatty acids have been identified as desirable in edible oils. Camelina, with its high content of OMEGA-3 fatty acids, (38% of the total fatty acid content), offers an opportunity to supply the growing demand for high quality edible oils . This makes camelina oil a rich source of essential fatty acids and excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds may have favorable nutritional implications and beneficial physiological effects. Camelina oil can reduce serum triglycerides and cholesterol.
The production of edible oil from crops has enjoyed unremitting growth during the latter part of the 20th century. This trend shows no signs of relenting. The demand for edible oils is increasing most in the heavily populated regions of South Asia, China, and the Far East, where vegetable oils are an important part of the diet, but demand for meal and oil is also high in the European and American markets.
The development of soybean, sunflower, and canola, the three most significant edible oils for temperate climates, represent important new crop successes. It is likely that these crops will continue to expand in acreage, given increasing demand for high quality edible oils and meals, the wide adaptation of these crops, and new, improved cultivars. However, each of these major oilseeds has its limitations. For example, soybean, though ideal for most regions of the corn belt, is not well adapted to more northerly regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Canola and sunflower are better adapted to northern climates but have high nitrogen requirements, and are susceptible to insect or bird predation as well as diseases. These oilseed crops are often not suitable to marginal lands, low moisture, low fertility, or higher Ph soils. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in developing agronomic systems with low requirements for fertilizer, pesticides, and energy, and which provide better soil erosion control than conventional systems. This led us to examine the viability of developing camelina as an oilseed with reduced input requirements and as a crop well suited to marginal soils, or soil- and resource-conserving agronomic practices.
Although camelina is known in North America primarily as a weed, it was known as "gold of pleasure" to ancient European agriculturists. Cultivation probably began in Neolithic times, and by the Iron Age in Europe when the number of crop plants approximately doubled, camelina was commonly used as an oil-supplying plant. Cultivation, as evidenced from carbonized seed, has been shown to occur in regions surrounding the North Sea during the Bronze Age. Camelina monocultures occurred in the Rhine River Valley as early as 600 BC Camelina probably spread in mixtures with flax and as monocultures, similarly to small grains, which also often spread as crop mixtures. It was cultivated in antiquity from Rome to southeastern Europe and the Southwestern Asian steppes. The crop was widely grown in Eastern Europe and Russia up to the early 1940's with some production lasting up to the 1950's. Camelina was replaced with the introduction and widespread use of oilseed canola. It is suggested that camelina, with its high content of unsaturated fatty acids (approx. 90%), was more difficult and expensive to hydrogenate than oilseed rape (canola), and this led to its decline. Hydrogenation is the process that creates trans-fatty acids, which must be listed on labels, starting 1/1/2006 because of the linkage between trans-fats and obesity, CVD, diabetes and other health disorders. Today Camelina is produced in Slovenia, Ukraine, China, Finland, Germany, Austria and Montana.