Fields of gold blossoming as spring arrives in Lewes

Rapeseed field near Kingston
Rapeseed field near Kingston

Spring is gathering pace in the Lewes area as yellow rapeseed flower fields brighten up the South Downs.

This photo was taken by our photographer Peter Cripps from near Housedean Farm and looks towards the South Downs at Firle. Rapeseed oil, sometimes called vegetable or canola oil, is from the third most important crop grown in the UK after wheat and barley.

Looking towards the South Downs at Firle

Looking towards the South Downs at Firle

Along with linseed, they are the only oils grown and bottled in the UK.

It comes from the black seeds of the rapeseed plant, Brassica napus, which is from the same family as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

Rapeseed crops have been cultivated throughout much of the world for at least 4,000 years.

Previously its primary use was as a lamp oil and it has also been used in soap.

Oilseed rape is grown as part of a crop rotation and rarely returns to the same field more than one year in three.

It allows insects and fungal pests to die out between cereal crops.

Rapseed oil is also used for biodiesel.

And some varieties of rapeseed are eaten as tender greens in Thailand and Vietnam.