Here you will find studies and journaling of my work with primarily western "Wild" plants and their uses for food, medicine, and tools. Get recipes...foraging book reviews...and listings of my upcoming classes. Enjoy!
Walking down the supermarket aisles we see Olive oils...Canola oils...Sunflower oils...and host of other varieties that come in shapely glass bottles with fancy labels that make them look more like an expensive wine than a vegetable oil. Their neighbors are oils that while they may seem "less fancy" in their durable and yet inexpensive plastic...in my estimation...they are equally beautiful as the light passes through them.
A lifetime of pushing our shopping carts by a seemingly endless supply of these oils...available at a relatively low price...could make them seem like an expendable commodity. As if they will always be there for us to purchase and use liberally. If it is our lot to go through times of scarcity...where oil has gone up in price until the average person cannot purchase it...or circumstances have made it no longer available...we may find as Joni Mitchell sang so wisely..."Don't it always seem to go...that we don't know what we've got till it's gone"!
F. Enzio Busche tells of a time in his life when vegetable oil was very valuable...
"Frequently I am asked, “What were the most valuable items in the days of starvation in Germany?...For what we needed, the food item we relied on most was vegetable oil. With a bottle of vegetable oil, one could acquire nearly every other desirable item. It had such value that with a quart of vegetable oil one could probably trade for three bushels of apples or three hundred pounds of potatoes. Vegetable oil has a high calorie content, is easy to transport, and in cooking can give a tasty flavor to all kinds of food items that one would not normally consider as food—wild flowers, wild plants, and roots from shrubs and trees. For me and my family, a high-quality vegetable oil has the highest priority in our food storage, both in times of daily use and for emergency usage. When vegetable oil is well-packed and stored appropriately, it has a long storage life without the necessity of refrigeration. We found ours to be in very good condition after twenty years of storage, but circumstances may vary in different countries and with different supplies."(F. Enzio Busche, “How Beautiful to Live in These Times and Be Prepared!,” Ensign, Jun 1982, 16)
Uses of Oil
Barter value...nutritional value...ease of transport...and taste is about all we could ask of a food item in a time of scarcity. As a food...vegetable oil has many uses...
Wikipedia itemizes the food value this way...
"Many vegetable oils are consumed directly, or used directly as ingredients in food - a role that they share with some animal fats, including butter and ghee. The oils serve a number of purposes in this role:
Shortening - to give pastry a crumbly texture .
Texture - oils can serve to make other ingredients stick together less.
Flavor - while less-flavorful oils command premium prices, oils such as olive oil or almond oil may be chosen specifically for the flavor they impart.
Flavor base - oils can also "carry" flavors of other ingredients, since many flavors are present in chemicals that are soluble in oil.
Secondly, oils can be heated, and used to cook other foods. Oils that are suitable for this purpose must have a high flash point. Such oils include the major cooking oils - canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut etc. Some oils, including rice bran oil, are particularly valued in Asian cultures for high temperature cooking, because of their unusually high flash point."
There are also many other non-food uses of vegetable oil that you may not have considered that can make it a valuable item to have around...especially during hard times. By no means is this a complete list...but here some that I could think of or find...
In light of this information...we should look for ways to be prepared to have oil on hand.
Some oils are more healthy than others. The health conscious should be wary of using some oils. There is some conflicting information as to which is best. Researching the food value of coconut oil for example will leave you bewildered as to whom is correct as some say it is the most unhealthy oil...and others say it is the healthiest!! I encourage you to research the oils and make your own decision.
Enzio mentioned that his family had success storing vegetable oil for 20+ years that was still good after that time. If you were to look around for the "experts" to tell you how long you can store an oil for...you will find that it depends on the kind of oil you want to store...how you plan on storing it...and the point of view of the "expert".
For example...some would say that olive oil has a shelf life of a year or two...others for 3-4 years...while others would say that it can be stored indefinitely! I'm not really sure who is right but...here you can find some advice on how to extend the shelf life of your oils.
While the information given by experts regarding shelf lives may vary...they all seem to agree that fresh is better tasting...and better for you. Even a small amount of rancid oil can make your food taste really bad...and even make you quite sick.
Make Your Own Oil
Have you considered that it could be possible to make your own oil? If you were to have the tools and skill to make your own oil you would have...
1. the freshest and therefore healthiest oils possible.
2. the possibility of having oil still available to your family...even after your oil storage is expended by a "sustained emergency".
3. the ability to make oils out of a variety of plants you may have never considered...that may not be commercially available.
The storing of any food or supply brings a level of self reliance and peace of mind that will last only as long as the food or supply does! Having the ability to produce your own food and supplies brings the possessor of such knowledge into the realm of true self reliance.
It reminds me of that old saying "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day...or teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime". I could easily reword it to say "The store gives a man some oil and feeds him till it's gone...or he could learn to make his own oil and feed himself for a lifetime!"
The prophets have long spoken the phrase "Home production and storage". While just simply storing may be an "easier" path...learning to produce what you need could prove "invaluable".
a) Water assisted. Here the finely ground oilseed is either boiled in water and the oil that floats to the surface is skimmed off or ground kernels are mixed with water and squeezed and mixed by hand to release the oil. b) Manual pressing. Here oilseeds, usually pre-ground, are pressed in manual screw presses. A typical press is shown in diagram 1. c) Expelling. An expeller consists of a motor driven screw turning in a perforated cage. The screw pushes the material against a small outlet, the "choke". Great pressure is exerted on the oilseed fed through the machine to extract the oil. Expelling is a continuous method unlike the previous two batch systems. d) Ghanis. A ghani consists of a large pestle and mortar rotated either by animal power or by a motor. Seed is fed slowly into the mortar and the pressure exerted by the pestle breaks the cells and releases the oil. Ghani technology is mainly restricted to the Indian sub-continent. e) Solvent extraction. Oils from seeds or the cake remaining from expelling is extracted with solvents and the oil is recovered after distilling off the solvent under vacuum.
My own belief is that the second one on the list...letter "b" is the best for preparedness. I will share more on why later.
It really is remarkable how many seeds and nuts can be processed for their valuable oil. Wikipedia has a wonderful list of various vegetable oils and their uses. On that list you will find many seeds and nuts that you are probably currently tossing in the trash. Seeds that if you simply set them aside to dry out...you could be pressing them for their oils.
You will also see some on the list that can be gathered from wild sources. I first started to research this when I found out how high the oil content is in thistle seed and how it can be pressed for it's valuable oil. This would be a great list to print off a hard copy of...to have on hand to remember what seeds you can use and their applications.
Acorns For Cooking Oil
You may already know that I believe that acorns are one of the most underutilized food cropsavailable in America and much of the world for that matter. There is information out there on how to use the acorns as a meal...but really not a lot of information on how they can be used for their oil. This could lead one to believe that it must not be a feasible option if "everyone isn't doing it"...and yet the information that is available on acorn oil makes it out to be a great oil!
"Acorns can also be used to make acorn oil by boiling, crushing, or pressing. Acorn oil has been used as a cooking oil in Algeria and Morocco (Loudon, 1844; Hedrick, 1919; Smith, 1950). It was used by the Indians of the eastern U.S. for cooking and as a salve for burns and injuries (Michaux, 1810; Smith, 1950). Some varieties contain more than 30 percent oil, equal or greater than the best oil olives ( Wolf, 1945; Ofcarcik et al., 1971). The quality and flavor of the oil is comparable to olive oil (Wolf, 1945; Smith, 1950; Bainbridge, 1985a). Table 4 presents further information on acorn oil."
Isn't that remarkable! Those little acorns that fill green waste bins to overflowing can be made into an oil that has a "quality and flavor..comparable to olive oil"!! With the long term storage capacity of acorns...it is conceivable that a person could store enough acorns to eat as a meal...or to produce whatever oil you would need for the season or more.
Although none of the sources I found indicated if it was necessary to leach the acorns first...I communicated with Green Deane who told me that "You get a better tasting oil if you leach it first".
In hard times...acorns may be a primary source of oil for those who can make it. It is my intention even now...as the acorns start falling this season...to make it the primary source of oil for my family.
Choosing a Method of Oil Extraction
The best (in my opinion) oil expeller will be one that is easily transportable...does not require electricity in case there is none...is fairly priced...doesn't wear out or require a lot of cleaning...and can expel a wide variety of seeds and nuts.
From my research...the one that fits best into all of these criteria is the Piteba Oil Press.
The cost of olive oil right now is roughly $10 a liter.
The cost of the Piteba oil expeller is approximately $140 shipped. Which is an AWESOME price!! Especially when you compare it with some of the more complicated motorized versions that cost thousands of dollars.
Make 14 liters of oil that you would have purchased and used anyways...and you will have recouped your expense...and the rest is gravy! If due to crop failure...a drastic devaluation of our currency...breakdown of shipping...war...etc...the price of vegetable oil shoots through the roof...you may be able to recoup the cost with just one liter made!
It is interesting that we could go to the store and easily pick up $140 worth of groceries that disappear quickly from our pantries and think nothing of it. And here $140 may sound like a lot of money for a tool...and yet this is a means to make an unlimited amount of food! As I look at it...I am buying the cornucopia of cooking oil...lotion...fuel...medicine...etc...for a small price.
There is a price break if at least 4 are ordered. The owner told me that the price break comes on shipping when he can send presses together. Which would make the final price less than $140. There is a chance that our government will want to tax the items coming in from the Netherlands where they are made. I have been unable to confirm or deny how much that tax would be or if it even will happen...but don't put it past our government to have ways to gouge imports. The final cost should be less than the $140. Plan on paying that amount...but be pleasantly surprised if I can refund you some money!
If you would like to purchase one...please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how many you would like and your contact info. I have done many group orders in the past...and my experience has been that a lot of people keep trickling in wanting to order up until the last second. The last time I did an order like this I expected to order maybe 10 or so cookstoves...and we ended up with an order of 70+ stoves! This happens as families email families and it takes a while for the word to get around.
Here is how it will work. I will keep a list of people and their orders...when we have at least 4 people ordering...I will contact you to let you and request that you send me $140. I will gauge if orders are still coming in and make the order when money has been collected by all interested parties...no later than Friday July 31st. Then I will pay for the group purchase via paypal. The presses will be mailed to my address...I will tell you when they arrive...and then we will arrange how you will pick it up or perhaps have me mail it to you.
As a bonus to whomever buys a press....I will invite you to my home this fall...and do a free workshop on how to process acorns for food and we will try our hands at making some acorn oil! Then we will make some food out of the product we make! YUM!
Heck! Just the class will be worth the cost of the press!
In closing...almost inevitably I am asked after I do a group order...if I will be doing it again. The answer is "No". In this case I just plan on having one press...so I don't plan on organizing another order for a group. If you want an oil press...you may not want to let this chance pass you by.