Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sustainable Option #1: Grapeseed Oil

Sustainability has become a sort of buzz word, companies and organisations (and even governments) throw the word around in hopes of capturing consumers' attention. People are attempting to seek a more sustainable lifestyle even if they are a little unsure of what it means. In what i hope will become many more posts, i will recommend several alternatives to everyday consumer items. They won't necessarily make much difference, but it will make you feel a hell of a lot better about consuming.

The first 'sustainable option' is grapeseed oil as an alternative to olive oil. Because the olives used in olive oil are grown uniquely for the oil, the footprint in olive oil production is quite large. According to
this document [pdf] commissioned by the European Union, most olive oil is now produced using intensified production methods that require a lot of energy input in terms of chemical fertilisers. As well, there are problems of soil erosion and water shortages as a result of these plantations. Even the low-input, more traditional olive groves have been increasingly reliant of these fertilisers.

Though i am sure that grape production has a considerable footprint, they are grown for wine
, oil and leaves. This efficiency makes the impact of grapeseed oil considerably less than that of olive oil which is grown uniquely for oil. Grapeseed oil also has a lighter taste and a higher smoking point, which makes it better for cooking.

Of course one needs to consider transportation in making a choice. Why would we want olive or grapeseed oil if we can have canola oil grown right here in Canada? Well... that's your call i guess. Fields and fields of canola (aka rapeseed) are grown in Western Canada for oil production, and about 80% of all canola seed is genetically modified. Unless you buy your canola oil organic (which is expensive), there is no way to know if it is GM or not.

The best option, i believe, is to have a bottle of grapeseed oil and organic canola oil on hand. So, ditch the inefficient olive tree for the versatile grape, and use organic canola oil whenever you really feel you need it (and you won't be wasting precious money).

Grapeseed oil can be found in many grocery stores. It can be found at Segal's on Saint-Laurent.


Blork said...

I've been using grapeseed oil for years. I also use olive oil, but primarily when flavor is important.

My understanding is that grapeseed oil has essentially the same nutrition profile as olive oil, so all those good things you hear about the latter also apply to the former. Grapeseed oil also has a higher smoke point, so it is better when you want to cook hot (searing meat, etc.)

Flavor-wise, grapeseed oil is pretty neutral. That's a good thing in many cases, as you don't want the flavor of the oil to dominate. So for frying and sautéing, I generally use grapeseed oil. But for dabbing, or mixing with tomato sauce, or for other delicate things, I use olive oil.

Jon said...

I completely left out the culinary reasons for using one or the other, so i thank you Blork for posting that.

Blork said...

BTW, when I say "primarily when flavor is important" I mean "the flavor of the oil."

In general, flavor is ALWAYS important! ;-)