The Greenwalt family has been farming land between Ritzville and Odessa for more than 100 years, but a new crop on the family land has an even longer history.
Camelina and the oil pressed from its seeds were first used before the Roman Empire, and the oil was commonly used in some countries up until World War II, when it fell out of favor because it couldn’t be easily hydrogenated for margarine, Curt Greenwalt said.
Now, the Greenwalt family and others are rediscovering the oil for its benefits to cropland and healthy diets.
Greenwalt retired from a 30-year career teaching agriculture and business to high school students. He decided to return to farming on the family land. It was his son, Travis, who first learned about camelina oil and suggested it as a rotation crop to help restore the soil between wheat harvests. The family planted camelina and first pressed oil in May 2011.
Greenwalt said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the oil. It has a pleasant earthy flavor that reminds him and other tasters of a hint of broccoli. “I know the fields smell like broccoli,” he said.
The oil is cold pressed at a small processing facility the Greenwalts have in downtown Ritzville. They call the business Ole World Oils.
“The biggest hurdle so far is that there was no market at all for the oil,” Greenwalt said.
But the health profile of the oil has helped the company find stores willing to carry it, despite its unfamiliarity to most people.
Greenwalt said an analysis of the camelina oil from the University of Idaho Oilseed Lab showed it has a healthy hit of omega-3 fatty acids at 35 to 45 percent. A teaspoon of camelina oil contains the daily recommendation of omega-3 fatty acids for most people.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to health benefits including improved heart health and lower triglycerides. It may also help reduce inflammation. The fatty acid is considered essential because it is not made by bodies and must be eaten as part of a healthy diet. Flax and flax seed oils and fish oils are good sources of omega-3s.
Camelina oil also has a relatively low ratio of omega-6 fatty acids, which are also essential, but most people already get enough of them in their diets. Camelina oil is also high in vitamin A and other antioxidants.
Greenwalt’s wife, Lynn, has been experimenting with the oil in the kitchen at home. It’s won over tasters in stores in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon with infused bread dipping oil and a pumpkin bread recipe. Camelina oil also works well in salad dressings, sauces and for sautéing. The smoke point of camelina oil is 475 degrees, just a bit higher than olive oil.
To make the infused dipping oil, Lynn Greenwalt combines 17 ounces of camelina oil, three green onions, a bunch of fresh basil, two or three cloves of garlic and sea salt to taste. Optional additions include 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or grated parmesan cheese to taste. Ole World Oils serves it at tasting events as a dipping sauce for bread, but it also makes a nice salad dressing, the Greenwalts said.
Sons Travis and Tyler Greenwalt also help with the business. Travis Greenwalt lives in Montana and has a master’s degree in finance from the University of Montana. He works for environmental consulting firm Cardno. Tyler Greenwalt has an agriculture degree from Washington State University and works as an assistant pea and bean researcher for Seneca in Dayton, Wash.
The camelina oil sells for about $9 per 8-ounce bottle, and about $14 for each 17-ounce bottle. Ole World Oils camelina oil can be found at more than 70 stores in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon, including Huckleberry’s sections at Rosauers stores at 10618 E. Sprague Ave. and 9414 N. Division St.; Main Market Co-op, 44 W. Main Ave.; and Rocket Market, 726 E. 43rd Ave. in Spokane; and Pilgrim’s Market, 1316 N. Fourth St. in Coeur d’Alene.
It is also sold at the Health Pantry in Moses Lake and at the Moscow Food Co-op and the Huckleberry’s section of Rosauers in Moscow, Idaho.
There is a complete list of stores at www.camelinagold.com.
For the Ole World Oils recipe for pumpkin bread made from camelina oil, go to www.spokesman.com/ blogs/too-many-cooks/.