It all seems a bit too good to be true. Arrayed on my desk are a number of magic potions, potions which portend good things for our health.
You need to increase brain and eye functioning? Here we are. You want stronger bones? Walk this way. You want to reduce cholesterol? No problem. And what about helping out with that old arthritis, or that eczema, or the hypertension that is wiring you up? And by the way, we will also load you up with those good Omega 3s and Omega 6s whilst we are at it.
And there is more good news: all the potions taste delicious.
So, where have I culled these magic potions from? Arcane and expensive sources? Remote locations in distant places? Have I been doing an Indiana Jones/ Leonardo di Caprio gig in faraway jungles and exotic capitals?
Well, no. My potions come from Kilkenny, Louth, Donegal and Down. Magic potions for our health, and they are all local. Who would have believed it?
What I have on my desk are a selection of Irish rapeseed oils, along with a hemp oil. You may already know of the Happy Heart Oil made by Kitty Colchester in County Kilkenny, an organic oil which won many awards for its excellence soon after its arrival in the marketplace, just a couple of years ago.
The USP of the Irish rapeseed oils is simple: they surpass olive oil in terms of doing good things for our bodies: good Omegas; lots of Vitamins D and E which help smooth and sooth the ageing process, and lots of good stuff for our hearts, thanks to lowering cholesterol, lowering serum tryglyceride levels and keeping platelets from sticking together.
But there is actually another USP shared by the Irish oils. As Jane Harnett, of Harnett’s Oils in Waringstown points out, “Ireland is at an advantage as oilseeds appear to grow better, with more oil, and oil with more energy and flavour, compared to our European counterparts”. And Ms Harnett knows a thing or two about oilseeds: her family have been growing them since 1656.
So, there’s the sweet bit: it’s not only better for you. It also tastes better. And it’s Irish.
Since I have begun to use the oils in my cooking, I haven’t looked at a bottle of imported olive oil. I drizzle Kitty Colchester’s Happy Heart Oil over vegetables and use it as the base of salad dressings. With the lusty, gold-coloured Donegal oil made by Austin Duignan and Stephen Allen you can do literally everything, from salads to the red-hot heat of stir-fries – rapeseed oil has a very high burn point, so you can let the wok get smoking without any problems. Patrick Rooney’s Derrycamma oils from Louth come flavoured with garlic and with chilli, alongside the pure oil, and my kids love squashes and pumpkins roasted with the garlic oil.
Jane Harnett currently produces both a rapeseed oil and a hemp oil – two more varieties of seed oil are in the pipeline – and the hemp oil in particular, with its nutty perfume, is delightfully different for salad dressings.
The arrival of these new oils seem to me to be one of the brightest stars in the Irish food scene, and also a bright star for our health scene. If the basis of our cooking stems from locally-produced, health-giving oils, then food can truly become our medicine.
And there is an even brighter future for these Irish oils, of course, as their health message, and their superb quality, can carry them into export markets. The Mediterraneans have had it their own way for long enough with olive oils. The Irish, it seems, have finally struck oil.
Derrycamma Farm: www.rapeseed-oil.ie
Harnett Oils: www.harnettoils.com
Donegal Oils: www.donegalrapeseedoilco.com
Happy Heart Oil: firstname.lastname@example.org