Castor oil is extracted from the castor bean or castor seeds, which has a wide variety of uses in Ayurvedic medicine and cosmetics. The oil was also used as an engine lubricant and for burning lamps in earlier days. The seeds are collected from the dried fruits of the Castor plant which grows in abundance in our place.
The Botanical Name of the castor plant is "Ricinus communis" from the Family "Euphorbiaceae".
My experiment in castor plant and the castor oil has been inspired by Pitera Man, one of our instructables member, who posted the following in my Orangeboard:
"I really enjoy your instructables! Do you have any knowledge for working with castor bean to make oil or emulsions? Most of the quality videos I find on the net are in Japanese or Sanskrit(?), not much in English. You seem like a capable person with vast knowledge, perhaps, you can help me or point me in the right direction. Many thanks!"
So, I planted the seeds, grown the plant and collected the Castor beans for extracting the oil. So for I have collected about 250 grams of seeds which may not be sufficient to extract enough oil. Hence I have divided my experiment in two parts:
The first part will deal with growing the plant from seeds and collecting the castor beans.
The second part will be about how to extract the castor oil from the seeds. This will follow once I have collected enough seeds from the plant.
Step 1: Castor Plant From Seeds
These are the Castor seeds I collected from my friends. I have planted them along the waterway from our kitchen to the garden.
Within 10 to 15 days you will find the seeds germinate. The plant will take about 3 months to grow to a height of about 5 feet. At this stage the plant starts flowering.
Step 2: Flowers of Castor Plant
The castor plant flowers are borne in spikes of more than 12 inches long. The yellowish ones at the bottom of the spikes are male flowers. The female flowers at the top are red in color.
Once the flowers appears from the stem it grows many branches, each of which ends in a flowering spike. In the third picture, you can see the pollinated flowers growing into green colored fruits.
Step 3: The Fruits
The castor fruits are round to oval in shape and are spiny but they are very soft, not harmful to touch. In a cluster you can find around hundreds of these shiny green fruits. They may take about a month to mature and then started to dry out.
Step 4: Dried Castor Fruits
If you continuously monitor your plant, you may notice that the fruits in the spikes are starting to dry out. It is time to harvest the spikes from the plant. If you do not harvest in time. then seed pods will burst open and seeds will shoot out in all directions around the plant.
Step 5: Harvest the Spikes and Dry
You can cut the entire spikes from the plant. Remove the pods from the spikes and dry them in sunlight. Each pod contains four seeds as shown in the picture. When completely dried, some pods will burst open and the seeds will be ejected all around. Collect these seeds from time to time.
Step 6: Harvest the Seeds
Place the dried seed pods in a plastic tray and crush lightly. The seeds from the completely dried ones will get ejected from the pods. You can collect the seeds from the tray and store separately. Once you have enough seeds you can extract oil from them.
The remaining shells can be used as fuel. I have buried them in a pit to see whether they can be turned into compost.
I have collected about 250 grams of seeds so for. When I have more than 500 grams I will experiment with the process of extracting oil, which will be posted as Part 2 of this instructable.