Camellias offer showy winter flowers in landscapes across the South. They have something more valuable, too: cooking oil. A University of Georgia plant breeder wants to make the ornamental plant into a viable commercial oil producer.
Camellia oil “is a very healthy oil to cook with and very similar to olive oil,” said John Ruter, horticulturist with UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Camellias are native to China, where one of every seven people commonly use camellia oil for cooking, he said. And the country doesn’t produce enough to meet demand.
In this episode of “In the Field,” Ruter speaks with Brad Haire, UGA CAES news editor, about the ornamental plant’s oil potential and about something he recently did with camellias that has never been done in the U.S. before.