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Camelina sativa, usually known in English as camelina, gold-of-pleasure, or false flax, also occasionally wild flax, linseed dodder, German sesame, and Siberian oilseed, is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae which includes mustard, cabbage, rapeseed, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts. It is native to Northern Europe and to Central Asian areas, but has been introduced to North America, possibly as a weed in flax.

Cultivation and use

Camelina needs little water or nitrogen to flourish, it can be grown on marginal agricultural lands and does not compete with food crops. It may be used as a rotation crop for wheat, to increase the health of the soil

It has been traditionally cultivated as an oilseed crop to produce vegetable oil and animal feed. There is ample archeological evidence to show it has been grown in Europe for at least 3,000 years. The earliest findsites include the Neolithic levels at Auverniermarker, Switzerlandmarker (dated to the second millennium BC), the Chalcolithic level at Pefkakia in Greecemarker (dated to the third millennium BC), and Sucidava-Celei, Romaniamarker (circa 2200 BC).Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), pp. 138f During the Bronze age and Iron age it was an important agricultural crop in northern Greece beyond the current range of the olive.
It apparently continued to be grown at the time of the Roman Empire, although its Greek and Latin names are not known. According to Zohary and Hopf, until the 1940s C. sativa was an important oil crop in eastern and central Europe, and currently has continued to be cultivated in a few parts of Europe for its seed which was used, for example, in oil lamps (until the modern harnessing of natural gas and propane and electricity) and as an edible oil.

The crop is now being researched due to its exceptionally high levels (up to 45%) of omega-3 fatty acids, which is uncommon in vegetable sources. Over 50% of the fatty acids in cold pressed Camelina oil are polyunsaturated. The major components are alpha-linolenic acid - C18:3 (omega-3-fatty acid, approx 35-45%) and linoleic acid - C18:2 (omega-6 fatty acid, approx 15-20%). The oil is also very rich in natural antioxidants, such as tocopherols, making this highly stable oil very resistant to oxidation and rancidity. It has 1 - 3% erucic acid. The vitamin E content of camelina oil is approximately 110mg/100g. It is well suited for use as a cooking oil. It has an almond-like flavor and aroma. It may become more commonly known and become an important food oil for the future.

Because of its apparent health benefits and its technical stability, gold-of-pleasure and camelina oil are being added to the growing list of foods considered as functional foods. Gold-of-pleasure is also of interest for its very low requirements for tillage and weed control. This could potentially allow vegetable oil to be produced more cheaply than from traditional oil crops, which would be particularly attractive to biodiesel producers looking for a feedstock cheap enough to allow them to compete with petroleum diesel and gasoline. Great Plains - The Camelina Company began research efforts with camelina over 10 years ago. They are currently contracting with growers throughout the U.S. and Canada to grow camelina for biodiesel production. A company in Seattle, Targeted Growth, is also developing camelina.

Invasive species

The subspecies C. sativa subsp. linicola is considered a weed in flax fields. In fact, attempts to separate its seed from flax seeds with a winnowing machine over the years have selected for seeds which are similar in size to flax seeds, an example of Vavilovian mimicry.

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