Sunflower / Canola

Western Canada is full of canola, with fields of distinctive yellow flowers dancing in the breeze. Canola is both an edible oil and a type of Brassica, related to broccoli and cabbage. Developed from rapeseed during the 1970s using traditional plant breeding methods, canola seeds don’t contain erucic acid (a harmful fatty acid) or glucosinulates (which would make the oil taste bitter). Once harvested in the autumn, seeds are crushed and turned into cooking oil, canola meal or biodiesel fuel for cars and trucks.

The buds and new blooms of sunflowers heliotropic: they follow the direction of the sun, while the more mature flower heads face east to attract pollinators. Domesticated for 5,000 years, the hardy and drought-resistant plants produce important crops like seeds and oil. The genome of the iconic sunflower was cracked in 2017, revealing the larger evolution of a group of flowering plants (asterid clad), which includes tomatoes, sweet potatoes, petunias, coffee, mint and olives. Did you know the brown centre of a sunflower is actually composed of thousands of tiny flowers? Once the flower has matured, the head of the sunflower will droop heavily with seeds.

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