The spring show of the rapeseed fields – Spontaneous vegetation

In spring it is very common to stop and admire the spectacle of those immense yellow fields that, in recent years, have returned to be very common throughout our peninsula. This is the flowering of rapeseed, a plant that has returned to its present state due to its ease of cultivation and the countless uses to which it is linked.

Rapeseed, Brassica napus, belongs to the Brassicaceae family and is therefore closely related to cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers.

It is in fact a very vigorous natural hybrid between a turnip and a cauliflower. Depending on the growing conditions, it can reach 60 to 90 cm and, thanks to its very deep roots, it is able to withstand drought very well. Flowering, which is very long-lasting, takes place in mid-spring: the flowers are composed of 4 opposite petals, two by two, as is typical for this family.

Their color is a beautiful light yellow.

When they wither, the seeds, which is why it is mainly cultivated, begin to develop. They are in fact rich in an oil that can be used in food, but which has recently found new uses.

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Rape seeding

semi di colzaRape cultivation is simple and is also commonly used on small plots of land. It is in fact an excellent regenerator for the soil and a part can be used as fodder for animals. Its rusticity is then exploited by sowing it in autumn: by occupying the soil it prevents it from being invaded by pests.

To get a good field you have to first of all plough and mill finely: the preferred period in our country is from August to October, but you can also proceed at the end of winter. In small plots, the seeds can be spread out on the ground, otherwise the process is mechanical. Ideally, rows should be 30 cm wide and about 10 cm wide. The seed should be left fairly shallow covering it with a maximum of 2 cm of fine soil.

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Crop care

pianta di colzaIt is a fairly autonomous plant, especially if sown in autumn when it suffers only a small part of the competition from pests. Usually no irrigation is needed to achieve germination. Because of its resistance, they will not be necessary afterwards, so it is ideal for the arid areas of our country.

If we proceed in spring instead we should be a little more careful removing the weeds at least until it has developed the basal rosette of leaves.

Rape is an extremely rustic plant and does not need help from organic soil improvers or fertilisers, except for a little nitrogen in the spring.

It is also not afraid of parasites and cryptogams: let’s defend it only against slugs, especially in the early stages of growth.

Use of oilseed rape

campi di colza Rapeseed has many uses in agriculture and industry, but it is also increasingly appreciated in the home.

As a soil conditioner

Rape is planted in autumn or spring for different purposes.

Autumn sowing first of all prevents the growth of weeds during the autumn and the months of March and April. To this we add its quality of having very deep roots, able to go looking for and bring to the surface resources that other plants would not be able to find. They also “work” the soil, making it softer, more permeable and more alive. To get the most out of it, we need to cut the stems before there is seed production.

We will leave them to dry on the ground to incorporate them with the preparatory ploughing of the following crop.

If sowing was late, the seedlings will deteriorate when the cold arrives: the leaves must be left on the ground so that they release the nutrients.

Use in the kitchen

The use of rapeseed as a vegetable is not widespread in our country, but given the interesting nutritional qualities should be considered. The leaves and flowers can be consumed. The first ones must be harvested when they reach a good size: they can be eaten raw, but in general they are cooked together with other leafy vegetables. They can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator, but they deteriorate quickly. Alternatively, we can blanch them and store them by deep-freezing.

The flowers should be picked immediately after opening and are excellent as a decoration for salads.

The spring show of rapeseed fields: Other uses of rapeseed

olio di colza Rape as an extensive crop has the main purpose of providing seeds, rich in oils that can be used in many areas. However, they are not suitable for human consumption as they contain a good quantity of erucic acid. To avoid this, a variety called canola has been developed in Canada, with a low content, which has been very successful.

The oil obtained from the seeds of the traditional variety is a food additive, used in very small quantities. The processing residues are exceptionally rich in proteins and are used as animal feed, replacing the soybean.

A biofuel can also be refined from the oil.

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