Name: Flaxseed
Latin name: Linum usitatissimum
Other names: Flax, linseed
Uses: Medicinal, superfood

What is flaxseed?

An herbaceous annual, flax is part of the family Linaceae, known for its flowering plants of approximately 250 species. The plants grow about 4 feet and sprout blue flowers (They grow in yellow, red, and white varieties as well). The seeds are potently nutritious, and are either pressed into oil or ground and added to smoothies, baked goods, and salads.

Why is flaxseed healthy?

Flaxseeds are famously high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as containing about as much protein as soybeans by weight. Studies have shown that flaxseeds can lower blood pressure, reduce “bad” cholesterol, and fight inflammation. Flaxseeds are full of minerals and B-vitamins that are important in energy metabolism. Thus they are heart healthy and also have anti-cancerous properties.

What does flaxseed taste like?

Flax tastes mildly nutty, and if you come across some that’s brown in color, it’s likely to be earthier. Keep that in mind when considering it for recipes. You’ll know your flax has gone bad if it tastes a little fishy.

How do I use flaxseed?

Get your workout in by grounding flaxseed with a mortar and pestle. Or go the easier route by dropping those seeds in a blender, food processor, or coffee grinder for a couple of minutes. The simplest way, of course, is to buy them already ground or as flaxseed oil.

Either way, it’s typically used to boost the nutritional value of various dishes. For example, add it to muffins or sprinkle it on top of smoothies and hot or cold cereals. Flaxseed oil may be used in place of fattier oils like olive oil or vegetable oil.

For a Mediterranean approach, toss beans and roasted vegetables with cold pasta and drizzle flaxseed oil dressing over it. Add a bit of ground flaxseed to soups, stews, chutneys, curries, and rice dishes. Consider substituting eggs for a water-flaxseed combo in recipes for casseroles, pancakes, muffins, brownies, carrot cake, and cookies.

What does flaxseed pair well with?

It’s not an ingredient that’s long on flavor, so flaxseeds can play well with lots of ingredients. They do work particularly well in baked goods because they blend in so seamlessly.

Where does flaxseed grow?

Flaxseed likely originated in the Mediterranean or Middle East. Today, it’s cultivated all over the globe, with much of it grown in Canada, China, India, and the United States.

How to buy flaxseed:

Once ground, flaxseed has a short shelf life of about three weeks, so it’s best to buy whole seeds and grind them at home. (It’s best to consume flaxseed ground since they’re not as well-absorbed whole.) Look for opaque, air-tight packaging for optimum freshness. To maintain the freshness of flaxseed (and avoid its healthy fats from oxidizing) beyond the recommended three weeks, store it in the freezer in a tightly sealed container. It will keep for up to one year.

Surprising flaxseed fact:

Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen, a fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant.