I've been curious about all foods ever since my Grandma put me on a stool beside her in the kitchen....nearly sixty years ago.
What in the world is Canola Oil? I use it all the time! Except when I want the particular flavor, as in salad dressings and Italian bread, and I turn to Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
There was no such thing when I was first starting to cook. There was "vegetable oil." There was solid shortening such as Crisco. There was lard and butter.
During the 1960s, when people in the USA found they had an excess of food, they naturally started worrying about overweight and their health. The corn oil industry had a hugely successful advertising campaign to change us all to "Mazola" both in liquid form and as a butter replacement. " It is polyunsaturated," they said. It was more healthful than lard, but was that enough?
Meantime, at the University of Manitoba in Canada, they were experimenting with rape seed as a nutritious livestock feed. Rape is the latin term for turnip, and it refers also to cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard and other plants in that family. The rape grown for seed looks like mustard, with small leaves and tall clusters of little four-petaled yellow flowers. The oil was originally green and bitter tasting.
The university used natural cross-breeding among different mustards to develop a variety with pale, mild flavored oil. They found the oil was also heart-healthy, having Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids in the ratio of 2:1. It was good for frying, because it has a high smoking temperature.
Rapeseed oil was a good product, easy to grow in their climate, easy to process, and would make a great competitor to the corn oil of the USA. But the Canadian advertisers knew that the name would never sell. So they tossed ideas around the table until they came up with, "Canola," meaning simply "Canadian Oil." The name was copyrighted in 1978.
Canola took the world by storm. Today it is the third most common vegetable oil in the world. Besides Canada, it is also grown in the USA and Australia. It is consumed as a food the world over, and is also used as a lubricant, biofuel, and in lipstick and printers' ink. About 40% of each seed is oil, and livestock are fed the remaining meal after pressing.
And now I know!