Flax seed has been valued as a food crop for at least 7,000 years, according to food science writer Harold McGee. It's important to vegetarians and vegans as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and as an egg replacement in vegan baking. Although milled flax seed can be stored for months when packaged, once the package is opened, the ground flax is highly perishable. Processors of cold-milled flax seed claim their low-temperature process slows spoilage, but the product still requires refrigeration.
Items you will need:
- Heavy-duty freezer bag or airtight container
Store the unopened package of ground flax seed in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 4 months or as directed by the manufacturer.
Open the package and use the ground flax as desired for cooking or baking.
Press any air from the package and reseal it if resealable packaging is provided. If the packaging isn't resealable, place it inside a heavy-duty freezer bag or airtight container.
Squeeze as much air as possible from the bag or vent as much as possible from the container.
Place the ground flax seed in a back corner of your refrigerator, where the temperature will remain consistent through the day.
Use the flax seed within 1 to 3 months as directed by the manufacturer.
- The storage life of ground flax seed varies between brands. Some manufacturers add antioxidants to the ground flax to extend its shelf life.
- Flax becomes rancid because of oxidation. Squeezing excess air from the packaging reduces its exposure to oxygen, helping prolong its storage life.
- Whenever possible, leave the ground flax in its original packaging. Transferring it to a new container increases exposure to oxygen.
- The temperature inside your refrigerator fluctuates through the day as you open and close the door. Placing the flax in a back corner keeps its temperature more stable, helping prolong its storage life.
- Ground flax should have a very mild aroma. If it smells sharp or "fishy," it has become rancid and shouldn't be eaten.
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society: Storage Stability of Milled Flaxseed
- Cereal Foods World: Potential of Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil in Baked Goods and Other Products in Human Nutrition
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer who has written and blogged on food-related topics since 2007. Previously he sold computers, insurance and mutual funds. Decker was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
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