Flax Overview

Flax is an oilseed crop that has been grown since the beginning of human civilization. Two types of Flax have been grown: one for its seed and the other one for its fibre.

Oilseed crops have seeds that have oil in them.

History of Flax

Louis Hebert was the first farmer in Canada who brought flax seeds to eastern Canada. Over time, the growing of flax moved westward toward the Prairies. By 1875, European settlers were seeding flax from their homelands in the Prairies.

Each plant makes dozens of blue flowers for three to four weeks.

The two world wars increased the demand for flax as a source of oil for the home and factory. After the Second World War, the amount of flax grown in North America increased.

A woman is sitting on a chair next to a spinning wheel. She is spinning flax strands into thread.
Flax fibres can be spun into thread, which can be used to make linen. Linen is a very useful material.

During the 1950s and 1960s, flax products were used all over the world. The oil was used to coat and protect wooden and concrete surfaces that were popular for flooring materials. Flax was also starting to be an important part of people’s diets.

Many foods can be made with flax, including tasty cupcake treats.

Growing Flax

Flax is an oilseed that has a short tap root system. Flax grows well in the cool, northern climate of the Prairies and has adapted best in brown and dark brown soils zones. The blue flowers of a flax plant bloom longer when the weather is cloudy.

This graph shows the major soil zones across the Prairies.

After flax is finished flowering, the plant forms bolls that contain developing flax seeds.

The long, tough stem fibres of a flax plant break down slowly over time, creating ‘the straw problem.’ These fibres wrap themselves around farming equipment which makes it difficult to work into the soil after harvest. In the past, the only way to deal with the straw was to burn it after it was left behind the combine or raked into piles. Today, some of the very large combines can chop the straw small enough that it can be mixed into the soil instead of burning it.

The long, tough stem fibres of a flax plant break down slowly over time, creating ‘the straw problem’.

The straw can be used for animal bedding, duck nesting sites, lining for drainage ditches, and as horticultural mulch. A flax straw bale can be used as fuel in ‘bale burner’ furnaces. These furnaces burn the straw to heat water. The water is then pushed through pipes to a radiator that can heat homes and workshops.

Flax straw can be used in eco-friendly and efficient furnaces for residential and commercial buildings.

Flax Nutrition

Flax contains nutrients and other compounds that can help improve our health. About 42% of the flax seed is oil, and most of that oil is a healthy fat. The fibre that is in flax can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Flax has qualities that can help protect humans against cancer.

Our bodies cannot produce some essential amino acids, so it is important that we get them from our diet. The protein found in flax is considered one of the most nutritious plant proteins.

Canola, flax, mustard, camelina, and sunflowers are all oilseed crops that grow in Saskatchewan.

Flax seeds are very hard, which makes them difficult to crack, even when chewing. Because all the nutrients are inside of the seed, if it passes through your body without cracking, it will reduce the nutritional value. Eating ground flax ensures you receive all of the nutrients from the seed as it is already cracked.

An illustration of a flax crop with purple flowers is shown.

Flax seeds have oil in them that is a healthy fat for our bodies.

L
Flax Seed
These flax seeds will pass through your body without you absorbing all of the nutrients.

 

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Ground Flax Seed
This ground Flax will allow your body to absorb the nutrients from this seed.

 

Flax Products

Flax provides us with food products.

Flax is also an ingredient in these products.