The Uses And Processing Of Flax

Flax is a fairly tall and slender plant that features vivid green leaves and vibrant pale blue flowers. Flax, both in its pure plant form as well are from its seeds and fibers, has an astonishing array of uses. Flax is used in such diverse applications as foodstuffs, clothing, medications and nutritional supplements, and flax once even has some automotive uses before the advent of automotive synthetics. While flax can be grown in a wide variety of locations, it is most commonly produced commercially in northern Europe, most notably in Ireland and several of the former members of the Soviet Union. The seeds of the flax plant are used in a number of ways. For instance, the oil of the flax seed is useful as a drying agent in various kinds of paints and varnishes.

Additionally, since flax seed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids (an important nutrient found most commonly in fish that is lacking in many American diets) the extract of the flax seed can be used as a source of Omega-3 either in its pure form or, more commonly, as a component of a nutritional supplement. Flax seed can also be eaten, and many cultures have utilized it as a food source, as well as for livestock feed. Flax extract can also be used as a binding agent and can therefore replace eggs in baking recipes. Flax finds most of its more visible uses through the production of flax fiber. For example, a major component of the fabric linen is flax fiber. It is believed that humans have been using flax fiber to make clothing for thousands of years, so it is clear that flax fiber has some serious staying power.

Flax fiber is extracted from the derma of the flax stem, and it is used in products such as clothing, rope, bank notes, and even cigarette papers. Flax is primarily cultivated in northern Europe. Flax is harvested while still green as the quality of flax fiber quickly declines once the flax seeds reach maturity. Unlike many other agricultural products, flax is not cut--rather, flax is pulled up from the ground with the roots intact in order to achieve the maximum fiber length. After harvest, flax undergoes threshing.

Threshing involves the use of machines to separate out the important parts of the flax plant--the wood, the fiber, and the seed. Flax is one of the most diverse cultivated plants in the world. The uses of flax and flax by-product range from food and nutritional supplements to the use of its fibrous components in ropes, twine, and clothing.

While flax is rarely consumed directly (though parts of the flax plant are edible), the seeds as well as flax seed extract are a common component in many foods.

Dustin Cannon is owner of and writes on a variety of subjects. To learn more about this topic Dustin recommends you visit:

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