Orbital View: Fields of Canola

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Covering the landscape of Luoping County, China:

The seeds of canola flowers are crushed for their oil, which is used for cooking and biodiesel. Daily Overview’s Benjamin Grant has also posted a vibrant view of rapeseed fields surrounding Soest, Germany. What’s the difference between rapeseed and canola? Not much, as The Kitchn’s Ariel Knutson explains:

Canola was created through plant-breeding in order to get rid of two undesirable components of rapeseed. Rapeseed oil and canola oil also get mixed up because they can be labeled incorrectly outside of Canada and the United States. In the 1970s canola was created through traditional plant cross-breeding by removing two things found in the rapeseed plant: glucosinolates and erucic acid. Erucic acid was removed because it was believed to be inedible or toxic in high doses. The newly developed plant was renamed “canola” – a combination of “Canadian” and “Oil” (or ola) to make this difference apparent.

And to get rid of “rape,” which is derived from the Latin for turnip (rāpa or rāpum) but isn’t the most marketable consumer name.

(See all Orbital Views here)