Give me pumpkin seeds and I’ll make you high quality oil
Canola is a flowerlike plant in the cabbage family that takes between 80-150 days to mature. Its seeds can be processed into cooking oil at the household level.
The oil plant contains omega-3 and omega-6 vitamins, which are vital for brain development. The plant grows in both high-altitude and drought-tolerant areas.
Armed with this knowledge, Kimondo started by processing the oil from the seeds for his own home use and then began to sell to friends and neighbours.
Seeds of Gold found him at his processing plant, named ‘Kieni Canola Oils’ in Mweiga, Nyeri, with his two workers, one of whom was wrapping up a carton full of processed pumpkin oil.
“I extract oil from pumpkin seeds, which earns me more money. I grow the crop myself on an acre and work with about 50 farmers in Machakos, Narok and Meru, who supply me with the raw materials.”
Kimondo uses the cold-pressing technique to extract oil from the seeds. The process that does not require heat or additives to make the product, which can be taken raw to manage lifestyle diseases or for cooking.
The electric machine has an opening where he places the dried seeds that are then crushed to make a paste that flows into a plastic container. He then filters the paste to end up with the oil.
“Once I get the seeds from farmers, which I buy at Sh270 a kilo, I clean them and dry them up until they have 11 per cent moisture content. This takes about two days before I put them in the cold-presser to extract oil from the kernels,” offers Kimondo.
On the other hand, the pumpkin flesh is dried and ground into flour, which goes for Sh200 per kilo, and is used in blending others.
Pumpkin is rich in zinc and vitamin C, among other minerals that prevent brain damage, improve eyesight and prevent various cancers in men and men.
He sells a litre of pumpkin oil at Sh3,000 and 100ml at Sh800. Four pumpkins produce a kilo of seeds, says the farmer, who produces at least 3,000 litres of oil a month.
“Demand is so high that I am having challenges meeting the expectations of my customers,” he says, adding that his main customers are people with lifestyle diseases.
Jane Wangari, 28, who suffers from ulcers, says she has lately been able to manage the condition for the past five years using oil from black seeds, canola and pumpkin.
Esther Majimdo, a research scientist at Kenya Medical Research Institute, says the oils are mainly used as organic supplements because they are rich in nutrients.
“It is better for people to use the oils rather than the raw plants and the seeds. This is because the oils are easily digested and go straight into the blood vessels, which is not the case with consuming the seeds,” she says, adding that Kemri is working with Kimondo to improve the oil from pumpkin, shia, eucalyptus and neem seeds.