Thursday, August 4, 2011

What's Yellow, Oily and Grown in Quebec?

Fig.1. Rows upon rows of yellow. They're taller than they look.

For the last two years a friend of mine has been urging me to come and visit his hometown of Upton, situated in the Eastern Townships. Of the many points of interest his small town of Upton has to offer, the one that caught my attention the most was Upton’s sunflower farm.

Fig.1. It's not the flower itself that faces the sun, it's the pedals. Sunflowers need lots of busy bees to polinate.

Imagine acres upon acres of sunflowers. Yellow pedals sprawled out as far as the eye can see, all swaying in unison to the summer breeze as they face fixated to the East, as if every morning’s sunrise is the only thing that matters to them.

Champy farms (which is certified organic) is owned and operated by Christian Champigny. Champigny was inspired to plant sunflowers, and press sunflower oil, after a trip to Spain in 1999. The sunflower seeds are pressed on the farm, and hit store shelves no less than two weeks after they are pressed. It takes 4 kilograms of sunflower seeds to make 1 liter of oil. Last year, Champy farms pressed 10000 liters of sunflower oil.

Fig.3. The oil press. The dried sunflower seeds can keep for months, so the oil is pressed as it's needed.

There are tours being offered during the next two weekends at the farm. Champigny will gladly give you a tour of the sunflower fields and show you exactly how the sunflower seeds are pressed, and how the oil is extracted.

Fig.4. The oil during the various staged of sitting. Time is all that's needed for the oil to clarify.

While, as a food lover, the idea of fresh, mono-unsaturated oil being cultivated and produced right in our backyards passionately sparks my curiosity, what affected me the most from my visit to Champy Farms was how it felt to stand amidst all of those tall, proud sunflowers. I felt how important it is to share our human existence with other forms of life; and, if you listen hard enough, I swear you could hear the sunflowers singing to the winds.

Fig.5. Owner, Christian Champigny bottles the oil in a machine that removes air and seals the bottle at the same time.

Champy Farms. 205, rue Principale, Upton (Eastern Townships) J0H 2E0 450-549-4510

For a complete list of where you can purchase Champy sunflower oil here in Montreal, and for more information on their farm, visit their web site.

Fig.6. As the pedals fall, the seeds grow and begin to take over the flowers. The weight of the seeds will eventually cause the flowers to hunch over.

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