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New leaf for the salad bowl

The familiar yellow oilseed rape growing in Danish fields is normally used for oil production and animal feed. The breeding of new white-flowered oilseed rape varieties means that we will soon be able to add their healthy leaves to our salad. The taste and composition of healthy compounds of this rape plant will be mapped in a new research project involving Aarhus University and the plant breeders Knold & Top ApS. The results are important for the development of new healthy salad products for production in Denmark and abroad.

2015.01.19 | Janne Hansen

Leaves from white oilseed rape plants could be a new healthy ingredient in the salad bowl. Photo: Knold & Top


When the days grow longer and the skylark’s song signals the arrival of spring, you might be lucky enough to encounter the white-flowered oilseed rape on your journey somewhere in Denmark. This white rape plant has been developed and refined by the small enterprise Knold & Top. Plant breeder and business manager Erik Tybirk explains:


- Besides being an environmentally friendly oil production, it turns out that the leaves of the white rape are very palatable. These leaves have a mild and nutty flavour that makes them suitable for salads, unlike the leaves of the yellow rape that would make most of us pull a face because of their very bitter taste. The leaves of the white rape also contain some of the healthy plant compounds that are also found in cabbage.


In the three-year project, industrial postdoc Marie Grønbæk will be examining what precisely these compounds are and how high their concentration will be in the salad that hopefully soon will find its way to shelves in the fruit and veg section in grocery stores. Another aspect of the study is to explore whether a health food product can be developed from the healthy compounds in the rape leaves.


- We know from previous research that some compounds found in cabbage and oilseed rape can have a positive effect on health and an impact on flavour. In this project we will uncover the deeper links between cultivation aspects for the new rape plant and the production of healthy substances and how they influence both the nutty and the bitter taste, explains Marie Grønbæk.


The white-flowered rape from Knold & Top has a large potential as a food product – as baby leaves, for example – since it grows quickly and produces more leaves than other baby leaf products. It is already grown in California and Arizona. The project has a total budget of 2.9 million Danish kroner, to which Innovation Fund Denmark will be contributing 1.7 million. The project is also supported by Future Food Innovation, part of Central Denmark Region's innovative food network.


For further information please contact:


Industrial postdoc Marie Grønbæk, Department of Food Science, email: gronbaek@food.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8327


Science Team Leader Hanne L. Kristensen, Department of Food Science, email: hanne.kristensen@food.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8354


Erik Tybirk, Knold & Top ApS, e-mail: info@knoldogtop.com, telephone: +45 8655 6501