While I was looking at A Comprehensive History of Soy , I started thinking about cooking oil in general. It’s one of the staple foods around the world. The USDA National Nutrient Database gives you the nutritional content for 100s of foods. So I started examining the cooking oils in the database and constructed a table showing the essential differences. Of the five oils, we could grow three of the plants – sunflowers, soybeans, and corn. Since we are already planning to grow soybeans which will be used for soymilk, yoghurt, and tofu, that crop is already spoken for. I’m not that sold on corn because it takes a lot out of the soil.
Some research into sunflower oil led us to:
IN 2,500 SQUARE FEET, a family of four can grow each year enough sunflower seed to produce three gallons of homemade vegetable oil suitable for salads or cooking and 20 pounds of nutritious, dehulled seed — with enough broken seeds left over to feed a winter’s worth of birds.
which led to a search for black oil sunflower seeds and an oil extractor. Not knowing what was being done to bird feed, we decided that organic was important. I’m not sure which of the types of sunflower oil will be the closest to what we produce but it doesn’t really matter since the differences among the three are all positive.
So we will be planting a small packet’s worth of sunflower seeds to see what germination rates are like and what yields are like. Depending on the results, we will plant what we think we need to produce 2 gallons of sunflower oil next year and, depending on the harvest, invest in an oil expeller press.
At worst, we will have a wonderful display of sunflowers and the birds will have an incredible feast this fall and winter. In fact, it’ll probably be a challenge to keep the birds away from the sunflower heads as the seeds ripen.