07 April 2008

Colza paints yellow pictures

It's April, and one of the ways you can tell is that the colza is blooming. There are wide, rolling fields of it down in the Indre River Valley, about 25 miles south of Saint-Aignan. That's where we went yesterday afternoon.

A farm compound at the top of a hill near the village called
Le Tranger, in the Berry region south of Saint-Aignan

It's April, but the weather doesn't know it yet. After a couple of beautiful days last week, it turned cold again yesterday and we had more of those March-type giboulées in the afternoon. That means squalls of rain and sleet blew through every hour or so, and the temperature dropped into the 30s F (below 5ºC). The temperature this morning is below freezing. It snowed in the Paris region this morning.

A wider shot of the same farm and field as above

You can see the big dark clouds in these pictures of the colza fields. What is colza? It's what used to be called "rape" — Here's what the American Heritage dictionary says about rape: "A European plant (Brassica napus) of the mustard family, cultivated as fodder and for its seed that yields a valuable oil. Also called colza, oil-seed rape." Huile de colza, which is one of the healthiest oils you can consume, is known as canola oil in North America.

Another rape field near Le Tranger

As we drove around yesterday, I was telling our friends that the local agriculture gives us spectacular views as the spring season evolves into summer. Each in its turn, colza gives us wide swathes of yellow colza flowers in May, flax produces extensive fields of blue flowers in May, poppies make for bright carpet of red flowers in June, and then sunflowers bring back the yellow over thousands of acres of farmland in July.


  1. Waoh Those are nice pics. They remind me of the fields of mustard plants that I saw along the southern shore of the St Lawrence river going to Gaspe in Quebec. It was in a quaint village called Kamouraska.

  2. I thought colza was old-fashioned lamp oil? And on what basis is canola healthy? I think that might be marketing hype. I also think that most of it in France might be grown for biofuel, and is part of the reason the vines are being grubbed up - the subsidies for biofuel being better than those for wine at the moment (just speculation).

  3. Conventional wisdom in France is that canola is better for you than, for example, olive oil. I'm not an expert. But I know I like huile de colza. I've heard of its potential use in producing bio-fuels but don't know much about that. As for vines being ripped up, it seems that there is a wine glut.

  4. "wine glut"
    Music to my ears.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?