Local Heart, Global Soul

November 14, 2012

Oil My Palm, With Palm Oil….

Filed under: FOOD,LIFE,MALAYSIA,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Since we apparently satisfied the Malaysian police that we were law abiding citizens, (goodness knows how we got away with that one!) the coach was permitted to  continue on it’s way.

Soon we are passing plantation after plantation of oil palms, hardly surprising considering  that Malaysia is on of the world biggest producers of palm oil.

When my parents lived in the Solomon Islands, the growth of palm oil plantations was a contentious issue since it meant that the local flat land that had been historically used for subsistence agriculture (village or individual “gardens”) was being taken over at an unsustainable rate.

New “gardens” were being made on the very steep sides of the hills, but clearing the dense jungle to do so was  difficult, access was limited and in a place of high tropical rainfall these gardens were being swiftly eroded and produced less yield.

I don’t know if people in Malaysia have prospered from the production of palm oil or not, probably the are multi-nationals have but if the villagers who historical had plots of land to use as a family resource did or not?…. who knows?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Since as a foodie, palm oil is not high on my wish-list of ingredients since it’s so high in saturated fat and as a crop I can still hear my parents ranting about the destruction of Guadalcanal in the Solomon’s,  I find that I have rather switched myself off to any knowledge of palm oil so a little research is required:

Wikipedia tells me:

Elaeis (from Greek, meaning “oil”) is a genus of palms containing two species, called oil palms.

They are used in commercial agriculture in the production of palm oil. The African oil palm Elaeis guineensis (the species name guineensis referring to its country of origin) is the principal source of palm oil, it is native to west and southwest Africa, occurring between Angola and Gambia.

The American oil palm Elaeis oleifera (from English oliferous, meaning “oil-producing”) is native to tropical Central and South America, and is used locally for oil production.

Since palm oil contains more saturated fats than oils made from canola, corn, linseed, soybeans, safflower, and sunflowers, it can withstand extreme deep-frying heat and resists oxidation. It contains no trans fat, and its use in food has increased as food-labelling laws have changed to specify trans fat content. 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Oil from Elaeis guineensis is also used as biofuel. Human use of oil palms may date back about 5,000 years in coastal west Africa; Palm oil was also discovered in the late 1800s by archaeologists, in a tomb at Abydos dating back to 3,000 BCE. It is thought that Arab traders brought the oil palm to Egypt.

Elaeis guinneensis is now extensively cultivated in tropical countries outside Africa, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia which together produce most of the world supply.

Palm oil plantations are under increasing scrutiny for social and environmental harm, particularly because rainforests with high biodiversity are destroyed, greenhouse gas output is increased, and because people are displaced by unscrupulous palm-oil enterprises.

Description Mature palms are single-stemmed, and grow to 20 m tall. The leaves are pinnate, and reach between 3-5 m long. The flowers are produced in dense clusters; each individual flower is small, with three sepals and three petals.

The palm fruit is reddish, about the size of a large plum, and grows in large bunches. Each fruit is made up of an oily, fleshy outer layer (the pericarp), with a single seed (the palm kernel), also rich in oil.


I did find a very interesting  website about Palm oil : http://www.palmoilaction.org.au/shopping-guide.html which is good for people on both sides of the debate.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

If you would like to identify palm oil in your food so that you can avoid it then there are easy instructions on how to lead a food label to identify palm oil.

If you don’t mind palm oil in your food there is also a list of products on the website (albeit items more familiar to Australian and New Zealand consumers since the site is Australian)  that contain palm oil sourced from sustainable plantations so that you can at least make an ethical choice if you are worried about the environmental impact of it’s  use.

One thing is for sure, after travelling for hours in the coach and seeing one palm oil plantation after another, it’s clear to see that this is now a mega-sized global business that’s rather literally got it’s finger in to an awful lot of pies…

….and doughnuts,cakes, sweets, crisps, chocolate, cosmetics, soaps, laundry detergents and  even bio-fuel!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

1 Comment »

  1. I didn’t realize palm oil was so corporate-y, but I guess that’s inescapable for any big money-making crop nowadays. Well, the trees make for some lovely photos, at least…

    Comment by Luddy's Lens — November 15, 2012 @ 2:34 am | Reply

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