The World's first certified organic growers and processors with C.C.O.F. Since 1990
© Copyright 2018,
LaRonna Jojoba Company
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See us on California's Gold
with Huell Howser
As aired on KCET L.A. PBS
Harvesting jojoba is labor intensive. In the industry’s beginning, some farm managers purchased converted blueberry pickers that would straddle the plants with a series of bats to knock the seed from the bushes and onto a conveyor belt then into a storage bin. There were many problems with this type of harvesting. One major problem is that fields were planted with seeds gathered in the wild, which resulted in every genetic variation mother nature has. So, seeds did not ripen uniformly, and seed that dehisced (dropped from plant to the ground) would not get harvested. Another problem is fields that were planted with seed produce every other year, so this equipment became cost ineffective on years of low yields.
Another way some harvested their fields was to vacuum the seed. The field would have to be prepared by pruning jojoba to create a clear area for seed to drop to the ground. Then windrow the seeds for the vacuum to roll over and pick up through suction. This practice is also labor intensive. Since these fields produced every other year, farm managers would let the seed from the “low year” lay on the ground until the next “good year”. The oil produced from seeds that have laid on the ground for a year or more is best used for industrial purposes. Seeds that get wet from irrigation or rainfall over a year’s time will begin to rot and partially germinate, results in oil that is high in acid and could irritate sensitive skin, have a strong odor, and loses it’s hypoallergenic properties.
Our harvesting technique is also labor intensive. We knock seed from the bushes, rake into a windrow, hand pick the seeds, rocks, sand etc into a small screen. The screen is shaken to let dust small rocks fall out and are dumped into a cart. From the field, we take the seed to the cleaning area where we transfer the seed from the cart into 5 gallon pails run through a winnower/blower where the twigs, leaves, and more dirt is blown off. Then we dunk the seed into a water trough where the stones sink and the seeds float. We skim the seeds from the top and place on drying tables. After the seed has dried, we put them through a huller to remove the shells. From there, we take time to remove any rotten/moldy or partially germinated seeds prior to extracting the oil. If a farm is in the hundreds or thousands of acres, work contractors could have as many people necessary to harvest the seed in a timely manner. We prefer this harvesting technique as virtually 100% of the seed is recovered. We harvest every year. Our field is planted with cuttings which brings a viable crop every year.
The seed in the jojoba produces an oil, which is actually a liquid wax, that has industrial, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic applications. Currently the cosmetic industry uses up the bulk of jojoba oil.
However, the seed utilizes the oil for survival. Most seeds contain sugars or carbohydrates needed to germinate. In the desert, a seed could lay on the ground for up to 5 years before it gets rain. Sugars or carbohydrates will break down quickly, so jojoba developed the oil because it will not degrade. Once it rains, the seed begins to germinate and eats the oil for sustenance. Germination of jojoba, if kept dry, could be up to 10 years because of the oil.