Where does palm oil come from? Africa

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Palm trees

Palm trees

Palm trees first began to grow in 100 million years ago, just before the dinosaurs died out. Palm trees aren’t really trees at all. They’re more like a kind of giant grass that grows along the banks of rivers.

Women pressing palm oil in West Africa

Women pressing palm oil in West Africa

People have probably been pressing palm fruit for the oil since the first modern people moved into West Africa, about two million years ago. By about 4000 BC, people in West Africa were certainly pressing the fruit of the palm tree to get the oil. They liked palm oil because it had a lot of fat in it, and people need fat to live. Palm oil, like other fats, also makes your food taste good if you fry it in the oil. For instance, you can use palm oil with yams and eggs to make eto. Eto was a very common food in West Africa.

The fruit of the palm tree (what you press for oil)

The fruit of the palm tree (what you press for oil)

By 3000 BC, and probably even earlier, traders were carrying palm oil east from West Africa to Egypt and other parts of Africa to sell there. Someone buried a pot full of imported palm oil in an Old Kingdom tomb at Abydos in Egypt. Traders continued to trade palm oil between West Africa and East Africa right up to 1500 AD and even to modern times. However, in North Africa, including in Egypt, most people used olive oil, so they didn’t import a lot of palm oil.

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By |2018-04-08T01:10:03+00:00June 22nd, 2017|Africa, Food|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Where does palm oil come from? Africa. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 22, 2017. Web. December 18, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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