The first-ever Cornish sunflower oil has hit the shelves.
The commercial sunflower crop produced a breathtaking sight during the summer, after 16 acres of seeds planted in the spring at Trispen and St Newlyn East burst into flower.
The crop was a joint venture between progressive Cornish farmer, Nick Dymond, and Jack Baines of Hard Pressed Cornwall, an artisan cooking oil producer based at Carnon Downs.
There are only a handful of commercial sunflower growers in the UK who produce feed for birds. This is the first crop known to be planted on a large scale in the country destined for human consumption. Sunflowers seeds used for cooking oil are imported from the world’s largest producers such as Ukraine, Russia and Argentina.
The sunflowers were harvested by Dymond’s combine harvester in late September with the ten tons of seed cold pressed and bottled by Baines, producing more than 3,000 litres of pure, unadulterated Cornish sunflower oil which has just hit the shelves of local retailers.
Baines said: “Cornwall is the perfect place to source our raw materials, our agriculture is special and for whatever reason, local produce just tastes better. With changes in climate and technological advancements in farming we have never been in a better position to challenge what can be achieved on home soil.
“Unlike mass produced sunflower oil that you can get from the supermarket, our oil has nothing removed from it with all of that amazing flavour retained.”
The sunflowers provided more benefits than just creating top-quality Cornish cooking oil. Environmentally, the crop also had numerous benefits for soil health and wildlife, as Dymond explained.
“Rotating crops is important, but most break crops used in Cornwall come at a cost to the soil and the wider environment,” he said. “Sunflowers make an excellent break crop as they deliver significant benefits to soil health and structure.
“Our sunflowers were grown without chemicals, instead we focussed on plant nutrition. Livestock on the farm will eat the residue from sunflower seed pressing which contains a very high, easily digestible source of protein. This reduces the need to import protein in the form of South American Soya beans and lowers our carbon footprint.”