Fabulous Flax

2016-12-14-13-33-57-smAbout two weeks ago, a paddock we drive past nearly every day suddenly turned the unmistakable blue of flax. Not New Zealand flax, but linen flax.

At first, I thought it must be something else, because the plants were short—only about knee height. I’d never seen linen flax so short.

I also didn’t think linen flax was grown in New Zealand any more. During WWII, linen flax was introduced and promoted for wartime needs. The first planting was in 1939, and within several years, there were seventeen processing plants in the South Island. But by 1948, it was all over. As far as I can tell, there is no flax grown commercially for fibre anymore in New Zealand.

But flax seed and flax seed oil are a different matter. And, naturally, the varieties grown are shorter and bushier (with more flowers/seeds per plant) than the varieties grown for fibre production. The largest New Zealand processor of flax seeds is just down the road in Ashburton, so it makes sense that one of our neighbours might plant flax.

I hope they find it an economically viable crop—it’s one of the most beautiful crops I’ve ever seen. For the past two weeks, it has been a sea of blue on sunny days (the flowers close when it’s cool or wet). A wonderful addition to the colourful array of crops grown around us.

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