sPOTLIGHT iNGREDIENT: jOJOBA
Simmondsia chinensis, or jojoba, typically grows to 1–2 meters (3.3–6.6 ft) tall, with a broad, dense crown, but there have been reports of plants as tall as 3 meters (9.8 ft).
The leaves are opposite, ovalish in shape, 2–4 centimeters (0.79–1.57 in) long and 1.5–3 centimeters (0.59–1.18 in) broad, thick, waxy, and glaucous gray-green in color.
The flowers are small and greenish-yellow, with 5–6 sepals and no petals. The plant typically blooms from March to May.
Each plant is dioecious, with hermaphrodites being extremely rare. The fruit is an acorn-shaped ovoid, three-angled capsule 1–2 centimeters (0.39–0.79 in) long, partly enclosed at the base by the sepals. The mature seed is a hard oval that is dark brown and contains an oil (liquid wax) content of approximately 54%. An average-sized bush produces 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of pollen, to which few humans are allergic.
The female plants produce seed from flowers pollinated by the male plants. Jojoba leaves have an aerodynamic shape, creating a spiral effect, which brings wind-borne pollen from the male flower to the female flower. In the Northern Hemisphere, pollination occurs during February and March. In the Southern Hemisphere, pollination occurs during August and September.
The plant is a native shrub of the Sonoran Desert, Colorado Desert, Baja California Desert, and California chaparral and woodlands habitats in the Peninsular Ranges and San Jacinto Mountains. It is found in southern California, Arizona, and Utah (U.S.), and Baja California state (Mexico).
Jojoba is endemic to North America, and occupies an area of approximately 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 sq mi) between latitudes 25° and 31° North and between longitudes 109° and 117° West.
Native Americans first made use of jojoba. During the early 18th century Jesuit missionaries on the Baja California Peninsula observed indigenous peoples heating jojoba seeds to soften them. They then used a mortar and pestle to create a salve or buttery substance. The latter was applied to the skin and hair to heal and condition. The O'odham people of the Sonoran Desert treated burns with an antioxidant salve made from a paste of the jojoba nut.
Native Americans also used the salve to soften and preserve animal hides. Pregnant people ate jojoba seeds, believing they assisted during childbirth. Hunters and raiders ate jojoba on the trail to keep hunger at bay.
The Seri, who utilize nearly every edible plant in their domain, do not regard the beans as real food and in the past ate it only in emergencies.
- Danielle Lasit