Carefully made, high-end British rapeseed oil is all the rage in restaurants, but the cabbagey flavour means there are limits to its versatility. Do you use it?
Rapeseed is suddenly big business. There was news the other day that so much of the British countryside is now devoted to the crop, Japanese tourists, bored with cherry blossom, are apparently flocking here to see it bloom. Prices are higher than ever before, and the country is growing 6% more than it did last year. British production has risen from a few thousand tonnes in the 1970s to a couple of million today, more or less doubling in the last 10 years alone.
And in the last few years there's been a surge in artisanal, British, "cold-pressed" rapeseed oils, which are marketed much like single-estate olive oils. You can't go to a food festival or farmers' market without seeing the stuff on sale. Duncan Farrington, who helped to start this process when he launched one of the first such bottles in 2005, turned over £1m last year from his Northamptonshire farm. He tells me his company grew 94% on last year.