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Ack! . . . Flax Attack! May 3, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Health & Wellness, Humor.

Wikipedia ~ Flax (in Public Domain)

A long time ago, in a moment of health-consciousness, I bought a package of flax seed, planning to boost our daily intake of Omega-3 fatty acids.

At home, I opened the bag, took a whiff, and went . . . ACK!

It smelled nothing like seeds, nuts, or grains ~ all of which we adore.

Instead, it smelled of rancid fish, wet dog, and odor-prone feet.


That bag of flax sat unutilized and ignored in our fridge for months, until we moved south and I pitched it amid great fanfare and celebration.

As I tossed it, I am certain I heard the Munchkins of Munchkinland singing:  Ding Dong . . . the Flax is gone.  The Smelly Flax.  The Smelly Flax.

Fast forward 3 years.

At the Brain Symposium on Tuesday, Dr. Kevin O’Neil heartily and mindfully recommended flax seed for brain (and heart) health.

No . . . not the flax! 

Can’t I just put a vase of Flax Flowers out and admire them? 

Yesterday, full of good intentions, I bought a bag of Organic Milled Flax Seed (thinking that somehow in the grinding and milling process some of the nasty smell would have been dispatched into the ether).

Nope.  Still there.

With false bravado, I stirred one measly tablespoon of the foul weed into an enormous brown rice and spinach casserole, added a can of red beans, a chopped tomato, and copious amounts of curry powder (for the beneficial turmeric . . . and to mask the odoriferous flax).

Let’s just say the curry powder was no match for the odious flax.

If  you want my recipe for Gnarly Flax Attack Casserole, let me know.  Better still, let me know if you want me to send you the leftovers. 

So . . . are any of you flax fans?

Do you have a magic ingredient you use to mask the flax, over-riding its inherent unpalatability quotient?

Or should we swallow it like Cod Liver Oil, with a spoon in one hand while holding our nose with the other?

Aah . . . that’s better!


1. Life with Lizzi - May 3, 2012

Funny you should mention flax today as last week I added it to my seed and nut cupboard. Here it is known as ‘graine de lin’ and I have to say I didn’t smell the fish until I just went over to the cupboard and stuck my nose deep inside the bag! They must be processed differently here (in Belgium) as they don’t taste any differently to any of the other seeds I add in a mix to my salads. I’ve aslo invested in the oil, and again, no bad aftertaste. Next time you’re in Europe (or I’m in the States) – may’be you need to stock up! In the meantime, pinch your nose and be brave!!

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

Ou bag actually came with a warning:

Dear Customers: Be aware that Bob’s Red Mill Organic Golden Flaxseed Meal has a robust, nutty flavor and tastes really great! Two tablespoons added to your cold or hot cereal, pancakes and waffles, or baked into your breads, muffins and quick breads bring you the amazing nutritional benefits of Omega-3, lignans, and dietary fiber.

Maybe it’s an acquired taste? 🙄

Crowing Crone Joss - May 3, 2012

I buy this all the time and use it in my oatmeal, in breads, and even throw it into soup sometime. It has never had a bad smell. Maybe they produce a scent free one for Canadians. heh heh. oops, I don’t get the Golden Flaxseed one though. just regular old flaxseed. Seriously, though, I have bought flaxseed and ground them myself and still no smell.

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

That’s interesting, Joss. I got regular flaxseed last time and golden this time and they smell the same . . . bad. 😦

We’ll see how the bread tastes in a few minutes.

2. jannatwrites - May 3, 2012

I’ve never tried flax seed, and after your ‘glowing’ review, I think I’ll pass 🙂 Once in a while I will coat chicken wtih wheat germ and cook in a small amount of olive oil. That’s about as health nut as I get!

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

I add wheat germ (and cracked wheat) to bread, with good results. I am reluctant to do the same with the flaxseed because I don’t want to ruin a loaf of fresh baked bread.

That said, I would like to figure out some way to “enjoy” its beneficial qualities. It is chockful of “goodness” under its stinky exterior.

3. viviankirkfield - May 3, 2012

Oh Nancy…you are so funny!
Yes, I have used flax…finely ground golden flaxseed, I think it was called. And I added a small spoonful as topping to yogurt and added a quarter cup when I bake bread…I honestly never noticed any bad smell…so, either both of your packages were rancid (which does happen) or your nose is ultra-sensitive to the particular smell of flax. 🙂 The curry dish sounds delightful, by the way!
By the way, your library will be receiving one of the free copies of Show Me How! I’m hoping to include the SMH Library project winners with my post for tomorrow and I’ll include my email so people can contact me with their shipping info. 🙂

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

Yay! That’s exciting for the Anna Maria Island Library (and other winners). I’ll get you the address for the library.

Your comment made me head straight to the kitchen to check the expiration on the bag I bought yesterday ~ 2/27/2013. So, it’s probably not rancid. It must be me and my ultra-sensitive snoz! Maybe I’ll try a 1/4 c. the next time I bake bread.

4. sufilight - May 3, 2012

Haha, doesn’t sound very appetizing! My mother used to give us Cod Liver oil, yuck. Hopefully your readers will offer tips on making flax seed more palatable. 🙂

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

Same here, Marie. Flaxseed smells are redolent of Cod Liver Oil ~ vile! 😯

5. wightrabbit - May 3, 2012

Years go an holistic therapist recommended I take golden flax seed, as a digestive aid. Soaked overnight in water they become very slimy – but don’t really have an odour or taste. Maybe you’ve bought the brown variety? When I had extensive (and expensive) dental work done, the seeds got under my bridge, so now I take one 1000mg capsule of flax seed oil every day. Much easier and way more edible!
P.S. In England linseed (aka flax) oil is rubbed on cricket bats, to keep the wood supple and that does smell fishy. 🙂

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

This is organic golden flaxseed . . . the first time I tried it, I got the brown variety. I don’t much care for either.

I just started a loaf of Cracked Wheat Bread with 1/4 cup of flaxseed in it. Fingers crossed that it’s edible. 😉

6. Life in the Boomer Lane - May 3, 2012

Several years ago, at Now Husband’s urging, I starting drinking fish oil. I lasted a couple months. I finally said, “I know you say the fish oil pills aren’t as effective. Well, OK, I give up. I’m not a purist.” And I went back to the pills. I can still taste that fish oil.

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

Drinking fish oil sounds nasty, Renee . . . like drinking the oil out of a can of tuna fish.

I love incorporating healthy changes into my diet, but only if the taste passes muster. So far flaxseed is NOT getting a passing grade in the muster department.

I’ve got Cracked Wheat Bread baking . . . with 1/4 cup of milled flaxseed in the dough. Maybe flaxseed is better baked in bread.

7. Maggie - May 3, 2012

Hmm… never tried it. But I eat pretty healthy as it is, so maybe I can go without it.

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

I may go back to using WALNUTS as my source of omega-3 ~ I love nuts. 😀

8. Booksphotographsandartwork - May 3, 2012

All that I can say is beware! Use with caution! It nneds to be ground up before using. Or it will make it’s presence known very soon in a big way. 🙂

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

They’re ground up . . . and actually quite tasty in the bread. So, problem solved.

9. CMSmith - May 3, 2012

I bought some when I was having gallbladder trouble hoping I could cure myself with it. I think I mixed some in water and drank it. I don’t remember the smell, just that it was very viscous. I don’t think I did it more than once.

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

Oh, wow. I don’t think I would do that more than once either. 😛

10. sweetdaysundertheoaks - May 3, 2012

I have tried and tried to make flax our friend. You know, for heart health. We don’t do flax in our house. I don’t do fish oil either. I should but it just isn’t going to happen.

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

I tossed 1/4 cup into a loaf of Cracked Wheat Bread tonight and we didn’t taste the flax.

I see more HOME BAKED BREAD on the horizon! Yahoo! 😀

11. suzicate - May 3, 2012

Gnarly Flax Attack Casserole -I’m laughing my butt off at that one! I tried the flax thing years ago, too – pitched it out almost immediately. Thanks for the warning; now, I won’t waste my money with a second try.

nrhatch - May 3, 2012

Judging from the comments, flaxseed in the US is more objectionable than flaxseed in other countries. Wonder why.

The loaf of bread with flax turned out very well. That’ll be the vehicle of choice for flaxseed consumption in our house.

12. Three Well Beings - May 4, 2012

Honestly, Nancy, I think you really do have a more sensitive nose. I use flax seed, flax seed meal, flax seed oil…and I’ve never found it at all objectionable. Now the funny thing is that when I put it on my oatmeal in the morning I may now have that suggestion in my head and find I smell it, but I never have before! I have seen flax seed with a blueberry coating/flavoring, and I didn’t understand the point…now I may know why. I honestly just add some directly to oatmeal and I don’t even know it’s there. I obviously don’t have a very discerning palate! I’m going to think about this…we need to find a way to disguise it for you! Debra

nrhatch - May 4, 2012

Maybe you folks on the West Coast get your sweet smelling flax from Canada (see Joss’s comment above).

My guess is that it’s a regional thing ~ since Pixie, Suzi, and I (all on the East Coast) have had the same experience with flax.

That said, the 1/4 cup I added to the Cracked Wheat Bread did NOT affect our enjoyment of the bread. So, that’s how we’ll use it up . . . what a sacrifice! Having to eat fresh baked bread! 😉

13. ryoko861 - May 4, 2012

Hi, new subscriber here! Which is weird because I thought I was subscribed to you already….I have a quote from you on my blog (side bar down the very bottom) and I could have sworn that was the day I subscribed. Ah, the joys of the internet….
I buy oatmeal with flaxseed in it already and you can’t taste it. And it’s not anything special either. It’s Wegmans brand which is exactly like Quaker Oats brand but less expensive that’s all. I add dried cranberries…OMG, it’s delicious! I, too, have a bag of flaxseed in my pantry but I can’t remember that I have it in there. So now that I’ve read this I’m going to make more of an effort to use it. I agree, some of these wholesome grains can be really gnarly smelling!

nrhatch - May 4, 2012

Thanks for subscribing (or re-subscribing), Ryoko! Thank you for mentioning cranberries. I bought some, tossed them in the freezer, and never did anything else with them. Next up . . . Cranberry Bread! 😀

14. Patricia - May 4, 2012

Oh, just flax the flax, Nancy! Sounds like the stress of trying to like it outweighs any healthy benefit to you.

nrhatch - May 4, 2012

There’s an idea . . . flax the flax (or ax the flax) and return to my wicked ways. 😀

15. yogaleigh - May 5, 2012

I just get my flax seed oil in capsules at Trader Joe’s. No taste.

nrhatch - May 5, 2012

Thanks, Leigh. I tend to avoid consuming vitamins (and other supplements) in pill and capsule form. I prefer to get needed nutrition from the food on my plate, whenever possible.

I’ll use the rest of this bag of flaxseed in fragrant loaves of bread. After that, if I’m not a convert, I may return to walnuts as my primary source of Omega-3.

16. Team Oyeniyi - May 5, 2012

I used to weave flax as a cild. Never realised the seeds smell so bad!

nrhatch - May 5, 2012

Maybe they don’t. Sounds like flax smells worst on the East Coast of the US ~ our blogging friends in England, Canada, Europe, and California don’t seem to have noticed the odor. 😀

17. William D'Andrea - May 5, 2012

Flax thread is used to weave linen cloth. Could it be that the stench you’ve described actually comes from the cloth, and not the body? If so, should we change any practices of personal hygene?

nrhatch - May 5, 2012

You mean give the flax a bath? That might work with whole seeds, but not with milled. It’s finely ground, like flour.

18. bluebee - May 6, 2012

I use flaxseed (called linseed here) in my smoothies and it doesn’t have a bad smell at all – perhaps the brand you buy has chinook salmon mixed in with it (a sort of omega-3 mix)

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

Not according to the Ingredients on the label: 100% Organic Whole Ground Golden Flaxseed.

Got it! Maybe they fertilized the field with Chinook Salmon rather than inorganic fertilizer. 😉

19. Stephanie - May 6, 2012

Is it rancid? Flax goes rancid very quickly, and is horrid once it has turned. All it takes is a about two months at room temp. I always store mine in the fridge/freezer, and only grind enough for a couple of weeks at a time. Before it’s rancid, it’s pleasantly nutty although I prefer to have the texture disguised in bakery.

Also, I’d buy it someplace with very quick turnover or mail order it. Otherwise, you might be buying semi-rancid seed.

Stephanie - May 6, 2012

My recipe for rancid flaxseed: compost. or mix it into potting soil!

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

I don’t think it’s rancid ~ I suspect (based on the comments above) that the smell is a regional difference. It’s virtually undetectable when baked into bread ~ two loaves thus far have turned out fabulous:

* Cracked Wheat w/ 1/4 cup flax
* Oatmeal Cranberry w/ 1/4 cup flax

So, I will no longer stir it into casseroles. 😀

20. Perfecting Motherhood - May 7, 2012

Haha, I can’t stand the smell of flax either! I’ll go for it when someone else has already cooked it in something for me, like pancakes but I don’t want it at my house anymore. I’d rather pop fish oil pills any day!

nrhatch - May 7, 2012

I’ve found that it is “invisible” when baked into bread and WE love homemade bread. So that will be our strategy from this point forward. I’m certainly not going to ruin any more casseroles or smoothies with the stuff. 😀

21. eof737 - May 13, 2012

I like Flax and use it in yoghurt, soups, and health drinks. I buy Bob’s Red Mill Organic Golden Flaxseed meal and it is delicious… Check it out sometime. 😉

nrhatch - May 13, 2012

That’s exactly the brand of flax I bought. We enjoyed it baked in bread, but disliked the taste in the spinach rice casserole.

eof737 - May 13, 2012

Oh well… 😆

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