oil palm

Homeland – Western tropical Africa: the coast of the Gulf of Guinea and from Senegal to the Congo. Widely cultivated in Western and Eastern tropical Africa – on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and others, in tropical Asia, South America, Australia, New Guinea.

The trunk of a wild palm tree is 20-30 m tall, in cultivation 10-15 m. The crown is formed by 10-20 very large (3-5 m or more long) pinnate leaves; petioles of leaves are covered with large brownish thorns. The bases of the petioles remain on the trunk for a long time; in old trees, they gradually fall off. Blossoms at the 4-8th year of life, brings a full harvest from 10-12 years and continues to bear fruit abundantly up to 60 years. On the tree develops 3-10, rarely more fertile inflorescences per year, appearing at different times; The crop is traditionally harvested 4 times a year. Male and female inflorescences are separate; the first are higher than the second. Male inflorescences stand vertically upwards, female in the form of ovoid cobs hang down. Inflorescences with pistillate flowers grow strongly after fertilization. When the fruits ripen, they are almost round in shape, up to 70 cm long and 50 cm in diameter, weighing 25-50 kg and contain 600-800 fruits, sitting in the axils of the remaining bracts. They are longer than the fruit, and their sharp prickly tops protect the fruit from being eaten by animals. The fruits are plum-sized drupes, red-orange in color. The mesocarp of the fruit is oily, the endocarp forms a hard shell containing the seed.

The pulp within the fruit is orange. It contains 22-70% fatty oil obtained by pressing or boiling. It is orange-yellow in color, solidifies at room temperature, and is very rich in carotenoids; palmitic acid triglyceride prevails! This oil is inedible and is used as a technical oil (lubricant, for the production of soap and candles). In addition, a good food and medicinal oil (Oleum Palmae) is found in the seeds; Approximately the oil palm seed contains up to 30% oil. In addition to triolenn, it contains tristearin, trimyristin, trilaurin and triglycerides of caproic, caprylic and capric acids. Palm “stone” oil is used in ointment and suppository bases.

In Africa, the local population is provided with vegetable, oil from their backyard and wild oil palms. From oil palms and receive juice and palm wine. One palm tree gives 4 liters of juice per day from cuts in inflorescences. For the whole season, up to 240 liters of juice are obtained from the inflorescences. The fermented juice turns into palm wine.

Along the ocean coast and in the river valleys of Mexico, Central and South America grows the American oil palm – corozo – Corozo oleifera (HBK) Bailey (syn. Haeis melanococca Gaertn). It is much lower than Guinea and is more convenient for picking fruits. In the mesocarp of the fruit 47%, in the core – 36% fat. The mesocarp of the fruit serves as a remedy for hair loss and dandruff.

The plant contains dense (solid) fats.


Fats consist almost entirely of triglycerides of high molecular weight fatty acids. They are accompanied by pigments, sterols, vitamins and some other fat-soluble substances.

The fatty acids that make up triglycerides can be saturated or unsaturated. Most often, triglycerides contain the fatty acids listed in the table.

Fats are not individual substances – they are mixtures of triglycerides. In the formation of fats, the law of maximum heterogeneity prevails – more than 1300 currently known fats are formed by “multi-acid” triglycerides, and fatty acids of different composition (for example, stearinodiolein, palmitinooleinolinolein, etc.). Fats, consisting of “one-acid” triglycerides, are relatively rare in nature (olive oil is triolein, castor oil is triricinolein).

The properties of fats are determined mainly by the composition of fatty acids and their quantitative ratio. Saturated fatty acids form triglycerides of a dense consistency (at traditional temperature), and the density increases with the increase in the number of carbon atoms in the acid (see table). Unsaturated fatty acids form liquid triglycerides.


Liquid fats (oils), spread with a thin layer, can remain liquid (non-drying fatty oils) or, oxidized, gradually turn into a resinous film (drying – a dense film and semi-drying – a soft film). Fatty oils dominated by oleic acid triglycerides are non-drying. The more linoleic and linolenic acids in oils, the more they are prone to drying out, as can be judged by the iodine number (the number of grams of iodine that can join 100 g of fat at the place of double bonds of unsaturated acids). Approximate limits of iodine numbers: non-drying 80-100, semi-drying 100-140, drying oils 140-200.

Most vegetable fatty oils are obtained by pressing or extracting raw materials with volatile solvents. Freshly obtained (“raw”) fats are purified (refined).

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