Chinese Tallow Tree

by Green Deane

in Miscellaneous, Plants, Soap/Saponins, Trees/Shrubs

Popcorn Tree, Florida Aspen, Tallow Tree

Chinese Tallow Tree in Fruit

There is a lot of debate whether the white waxy aril of the Chinese Tallow Tree is edible or not, and understandably so. The tree is in a family that has a lot of very poisonous plants. And the seed kernel oil (as opposed to the waxy outer coating around the seed) is toxic. Thus there are many reasons to be cautious.

The most definitive reference I have found is this.  Cheryl M. McCormick, PhD., plant ecologist, authored a report in 2005 from “The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s Chinese Tallow Task Force.” On page 19 she writes:

“The opaque, waxy outer layer of the seeds is used in the production of soaps, cosmetics, candles, wax paper, and as a source of glycerine (Uphof, 1959; Scheld, 1983; Heywood, 1993), and is separated from the seed by emersion in hot water and skimming off the wax as it floats to the surface. The wax is solid at temperatures below 40° C, and has the consistency of lard. Subsequently, it is employed as a lard substitute in cooking and is used in cocoa butter production (Scheld, 1983; Facciola, 1999).”

I have not found McCormick’s Scheld source, which she lists as Scheld, H.W., 1983. Report on a Trip to the Zhejiang Province Science Study Institute, October, 24-31, 1983. Personal notes in holdings at the Rice University Library, Houston, Texas, 21 p.

Her second source is Facciola, S. 1999. Cornucopia II: A Sourcebook of Edible Plants. Second Edition. Kampong Publications, Vista, California, 674 p. I happen to have the 1998 edition of that book and it says on page 101:

“Outer covering of the seed produces a waxy fat sometimes used as a substitute for lard or cacao butter. In Hangzhou, China, it is used in the unique frying processes employed for Longjing or Dragon Well tea, a small amount being rubbed on the inside of the wok firing pan. The wax is absorbed by the leaves and small droplets can be seen on the surface of brewed tea. The flowers yield a light amber, well-flavored honey that is high in enzymes and low in sucrose.”

Plant Resources of Tropical Africa says:

The fruit of the Triadica sebifera

contains two types of fat: the white, fleshy outer seed coat (sarcotesta) yields a fat known as ‘Chinese vegetable tallow’ or ‘pi-yu’ in trade, while the seed kernel yields a drying oil called ‘stillingia oil’ or ‘ting-yu’ in trade. Chinese vegetable tallow is widely used in China for edible purposes, as a substitute for animal tallow and for lighting. Candles made by mixing 10 parts Chinese vegetable tallow with 3 parts white insect wax are reputed to remain pure white for any length of time and to burn with a clear bright flame without smell or smoke. Elsewhere, Chinese vegetable tallow is used to make soap, as a substitute for cocoa butter and to increase the consistence of soft edible fats. Stillingia oil is used in paints and varnishes, for illumination and to waterproof umbrellas. Both Chinese vegetable tallow and stillingia oil are used as fuel extenders on a small scale. The presscake remaining after tallow and oil extraction is unsuitable as feed for livestock because it contains saponins, but can be used as fuel or as manure. However, the presscake can be detoxified. The leaves contain a dye, used in Indo-China and China to dye silk black. Triadica sebifera is also an agroforestry species and an ornamental. It is a good soil binder and contributes to nutrient recycling. In tea plantations, it is planted as a shade tree. Its wood has been used to make various implements, toys, furniture and Chinese printing blocks. Because Triadica sebifera tolerates many unfavourable soil conditions and some frost, interest in it has grown again since the 1980s as a potential fuel and biomass producer on marginal soils, particularly in the south-eastern United States, but there it is now considered a noxious invasive weed. In traditional medicine in China, the root bark is utilized for its diuretic properties and is said to be effective in the treatment of schistosomiasis. The leaves are applied to cure shingles.

Despite all that I’d still like to find a first-hand account. Why? Because so I have not been able to melt the saturated fat around the seed. I put them in a frying pan. No melting, just burning. I boiled them in water. I had clean seeds but no melting. Steam is next, or perhaps it is late season fruit.  There is no shortage of professional journal articles on Triadica sebifera aka Sapium sebiferum aka Stillingia sebiferum. It is perhaps the solution to the United States oil problem being able to produce 10,000 pounds of oil per acre or more.

The white seed coat — the aril — is essentially a triglyceride wax, very saturated, whereas the kernel seed oil is already a commercial drying oil, stillingia, which is not edible. It, like the bark, contains a poisonous alkaloid. Either oil can also be used for lubrication and fuel.

Used for 15 centuries, the Chinese Tallow Tree is native to southern China along the Yantgtze River Valley. It was introduced into the U.S. by Benjamin Franklin in 1772. He forwarded some seeds he got from (now) southern Vietnam and sent them to Mr. Noble Wimberly Jones, a horticultural enthusiast and gentleman farmer in Darien Georgia. In a letter dated 7 October 1772 Franklin wrote: “I send also a few seeds of the Chinese Tallow Tree, which will I believe grow and thrive with you. Tis a most useful plant.”

The famous botanist Andre Michaux in 1803 said the tree had been “cultivated in Charleston and Savannah, but was then spreading spontaneously into the coastal forests.”  In 1826 legislator and botanist Stephen Elliot (1771-1830) wrote the tree “bears fruit in great abundance, but though they contain much oil, no use is yet made of them.”

By 1906 the (very misguided) Foreign Plant Introduction Division of the United States Department of Agriculture advocated extensive cultivation of the tree in coastal Louisiana and Texas again to use the triglyceride aril wax in the soap making industry. The tree is now naturalized from North Carolina west to Arkansas south to Florida and Texas. It has also escaped ornamental cultivation in California and various locations around the world. Older references say nothing about using the aril as a source of cooking or edible oil.

In 1983 Dr. James Duke, a friend of foragers, wrote about this tree extensively in the Handbook of Energy Crops. He does not mention, however, the arils as a source of edible oil though they are composed mainly of palmitic and oleic acids, what we find in palm oil, olive oil, many animals fats and in our own body fat.  It would be out of character for Duke to skip over such a fact.

Then we get to what the US database says: ( The waxy seed coating is used in candles, soaps, and cosmetics in China and Japan. It is also edible and may replace animal tallow when processed properly. 51, 174, 191

Darn, I wish they hadn’t said that. What is processed properly? More so, reference 51 is the Duke study I mentioned earlier just above. He does not mention aril processing. How can the government reference Duke on aril processing when he doesn’t mention aril processing? I think there a bit of government cut and paste going on.

I have not been able to locate the other two references (174: Sharma, Subrat; Rikhari, Hem C.; Palni, Lok Man S. 1996. Adoption of a potential plantation tree crop as an agroforestry species but for the wrong reasons: a case study of the Chinese tallow tree from central Himalaya. International Tree Crops Journal. 9(1): 37-45)  and reference 191:  Singh, Kuldeep; Kapur, S. K.; Sarin, Y. K. 1993. Domestication of Sapium sebiferum under Jammu conditions. Indian Forester. 119(1): 36-42.

Thus we do have some degreed botanists saying the white fat coating is edible and yet we have other experts who make the picture fuzzy by exclusion or the mentioning of processing.

Modern research has shown the Chinese Tallow Tree has strong anti-viral and anti-carcinogen properties and also eases high blood pressure. Conversely the toxic oil of the seed kernel is deadly in modest amounts and in small amounts can promote tumor formation and inflammation. Fortunately the hard seed coating keeps the two oils apart. Oddly, once processed and rid of the oil the protein rich seed meal (76%) can be used as livestock feed or even to enrich baking flour for human consumption.

Sapium (SAY-pee-um) is an ancient Latin name for pine sap that lathers like soap. Sebiferum (seb-EE-fer-um) means wax bearing. Triadica (try-uh-DEE-kuh) is Greek meaning three-locular capsules with three seeds. Sebifera (seb-EE-fer-uh) wax bearing. Stillingia (stil-LING-ee-uh) was named after Dr. Benjamin Stillingfleet,botanist and gay blade, 1702-1771.  Lastly the leaves and seeds crushed and tossed into water will kill fish.  The leaves can externally be used to draw infection from wounds.

Francis Porcher, MD, U.S. Civil War, wrote:

Chinese Tallow catkins

In my report on the Medical Botany of South Carolina to the American Medical Association, in 1849, I had, as above, reported the fact of this tree being already naturalized. I have recommended it particularly to the soap manufacturers of Charleston and the Confederate States, as a rich material for oil. The seeds, when burned, give out a great deal of light. It could be planted with profit. In the Patent Office Report, 1851, p. 54, there is also a paper on the uses of the S. sebifera, with a notice of the Pe-la, or Insect Wax of China. By D. J. Macgowan, M. D., dated Ningpo, August, 1850. In this article, it is stated that the Encyclopædia Americana refers to its being grown along our coast. “Analytical chemistry shows animal tallow to consist of two proximate principles–stearine and elaine. Now, what renders the fruit of this tree peculiarly interesting, is the fact that both these principles exist in it separately, in nearly a pure state.” “Nor is the tree prized merely for the stearine and elaine it yields, though these products constitute its chief value: its leaves are employed as a black dye; its wood, being hard and durable, may be easily used for printing-blocks, and various other articles; and, finally, the refuse of the nut is employed as fuel and manure.” Dr. Roxburgh, in his Flora Indica, had condemned the plant as of little value, because, in simply crushing and boiling the seeds, the two principles referred to as existing together are not properly separated. I had myself, long since, in my report, published in 1849, and also in my paper in DeBow’s Review, August, 1861, recommended this plant to the candle and soap manufacturers for the large amount of oil it contained, and because of its abundance around Charleston. I also gave some of the seeds to a manufacturer of castor oil, to experiment with, in 1851. I will now quote from the paper mentioned, and also refer the reader to a paper on the subject in the Charleston Medical Journal, by H. W. Ravenel.

“The Stillingia sebifera is chiefly cultivated in the provinces of Brangsi, Kongnain, and Chekkiang. In some districts near Hangchan, the inhabitants defray all their taxes with its produce. It grows alike on low, alluvial plains, and on granite hills, on the rich mould, at the margin of canals, and on the sandy sea-beach. The sandy estuary of Hangchan yields little else. Some of the trees are known to be several hundred years old, and, though prostrated, still send forth branches and bear fruit. Some are made to fall over rivulets, forming convenient bridges. They are seldom planted where anything else can be conveniently cultivated–in detached places, in corners about houses, roads, canals, and fields. Grafting is performed at the close of March, or early in April, when the trees are about three inches in diameter, and also when they attain their growth. The Fragrant Herbal recommends for trial the practice of an old gardener, who, instead of grafting, preferred breaking the small branches and twigs, taking care not to tear or wound the bark. In midwinter, when the nuts are ripe, they are cut off, with their twigs, by a sharp, crescentic knife, attached to the extremity of a long pole, which is held in the hand, and pushed upward against the twigs, removing at the same time such as are fruitless. The capsules are gently pounded in a mortar, to loosen the seeds from their shells, from which they are separated by sifting. To facilitate the separation of the white, sebaceous matter enveloping the seeds, they are steamed in tubs having convex open wicker bottoms, placed over caldrons of boiling water. When thoroughly heated, they are reduced to a mash in the mortar, and thence transferred to bamboo sieves, kept at a uniform temperature over hot ashes. A single operation does not suffice to deprive them of all their tallow; the steaming and sifting are therefore repeated. The article thus procured becomes a solid mass on falling through the sieve, and, to purify it, is melted and formed into cakes for the press. These receive their form in bamboo hoops, a foot in diameter, and three inches deep, which are laid on the ground over a little straw. On being filled with the hot liquid, the buds of the straw are drawn up and spread over the top, and when of sufficient consistence, are placed with their rings in the press. This apparatus, which is of the rudest description, is constructed of two large beams, placed horizontally, so as to form a through capable of containing about fifty of the rings, with their sebaceous cakes. At one end it is closed, and at the other it is used for receiving wedges, which are successively driven into it by ponderous sledge-hammers, wielded by athletic men. The tallow oozes in a melted state into a receptacle below, where it cools. It is again melted, and poured into tubs smeared with mud, to prevent its adhering. It is now marketable, in masses of about eighty pounds each, hard, brittle, white, opaque, tasteless, and without the odor of animal tallow. Under high pressure it scarcely stains bibulous paper; melts at 104° Fahrenheit. It may be regarded as nearly pure stearine; the slight difference is doubtless owing to the admixture of oil expressed from the seeds in the process just described. The seeds yield about eight per cent. of tallow, which sells for about five cents per pound. The process for pressing the oil, which is carried on at the same time, remains to be noticed. It is contained in the kernel of the nut–the sebaceous matter which lies between the shell and the husk having been removed in the manner described. The kernel, and the husk covering it, are ground between two stones, which are heated to prevent clogging from the sebaceous matter still adhering. The mass is then placed in a winnowing machine, precisely like those in use in western countries. The chaff being separated, exposes the white, oleaginous kernels, which, after being strained, are placed in a mill to be mashed. This machine is formed of a circular stone groove, twelve feet in diameter, three inches deep, and about as many wide, into which a thick, solid stone wheel, eight feet in diameter, tapering at the edge, is made to revolve perpendicularly by an ox harnessed to the outer end of its axle, the inner turning on a pivot in the centre of the machine. Under this perpendicular weight the seeds are reduced to a mealy state, steamed in the tubs, formed into cakes, and pressed by wedges in the manner above described; the process of mashing, steaming, and dressing being repeated with the kernels likewise. The kernels yield about thirty per cent. of oil. It is called ising-yu, sells for about three cents a pound, answers well for lamps, though inferior for this purpose to some other vegetable oils in use. It is also employed for various purposes in the arts, and has a place in the Chinese pharmacopoeia because of its quality of changing gray hair black, and other imaginary virtues. The husk which envelops the kernel, and the shell which encloses them and their sebaceous covering, are used to feed the furnaces–scarcely any other fuel being needed for this purpose. The residuary tallow cakes are also employed for fuel, as a small quantity of it remains ignited a whole day. It is in great demand for chafing-dishes during the cold season, and, finally, the cakes which remain after the oil has been pressed out are much valued as a manure, particularly for tobacco fields, the soil of which is rapidly impoverished by the Virginia weed. Artificial illumination in China is generally procured by vegetable oils; but candles are also employed by those who can afford it, and for lanterns. In religious ceremonies no other material is used. As no one ventures out after dark without a lantern, and as the gods cannot be acceptably worshipped without candles, the quantity consumed is very great. With an unimportant exception, the candles are made of what I beg to designate as vegetable stearine. When the candles, which are made by dipping, are of the required diameter, they receive a final dip into a mixture of the same material and insect wax, by which their consistency is preserved in the hottest weather. They are generally colored red, which is done by throwing a minute quantity of alkanet root (Anchusa tinctoria), brought from Shangtung, into the mixture. Verdigris is sometimes employed to dye them green. The wicks are made of rush coiled round a stem of coarse grass, the lower part of which is slit to receive the pin of the candlestick, which is more economical than if put into a socket. Tested in the mode recommended by Count Rumford, these candles compare favorably with those made from spermaceti, but not when the clumsy wick of the Chinese is employed. Stearine candles cost about eight cents per pound.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile


Chinese tallow is a quick-growing, deciduous tree typically growing from 24 to 35 feet but  up to 65 feet all and over 3 feet in diameter. Leaves alternate, simple, typically oval to round, may also be rhombic, 1.4 to 3.3 inches long,  1.4 to 3.5 inches wide, resembles an aspen. Trunks can be gnarled with fissured bark which thickens as the tree grows. Tiny flowers in terminal spikes 2.4 to 7.9 inches. Fruits are capsules contain 3 wax-coated seeds.


Fruit ripens August to November


Nearly any environment but road sides, low lands, trashy sites, borders are common.


Waxy outer coating of seed can be melted off, used for edible oil, according to experts. I have not tired it and do not yet recommend it. Do not open the seed because the inner seed oil is toxic.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin M July 12, 2017 at 09:31
Barbara July 4, 2017 at 21:04

I have 7 small trees about 2 1/2 ft tall in 2 summers. Originated from Sacramento. The seeds fell into pots under the tree with plants in them. The pots were sitting in full hot sun and with that said the heat from the sun melted the wax and the seeds grew in the pots with the plants already growing as well. Yes they grow very fast in 4yrs one plant has grown to 15ft with bast approx 8 in round. No need to boil if your not in a hurry. They are beautiful when their leaves turn colors and the long dangling flowers smell really nice almost like Jasmine.


Eleanor May 21, 2017 at 12:45


Does anyone know anything about making tea from the root of the tallow? It smells remarkably of sassafras! But I am wary because of its toxic cousins and seeds.



Green Deane May 22, 2017 at 20:41

Cornucopia II makes no mention of the roots.


Cheryl November 9, 2016 at 16:27

Hello, I like to use the seed to decorate around Christmas time. Some of the white waxy outer layer of the seeds are discolored. Does anyone know how or if it can be cleaned to bring out the white color?


Jane Pearman October 14, 2016 at 09:03

i use the white tallow berries at Christmas in one of the historic houses in Charleston as they lend a more historic decorative element. I have found two trees, and there are berries on them that are green. Can someone tell me when they turn white? Also, can you pick them while green and keep them until they ripen and turn white – or should they stay on the tree until white and then pick? Thx.


Green Deane October 15, 2016 at 20:15

They don’t ripen to white if picked off the tree when green.


JORETTA DAVIS August 12, 2016 at 22:52

I have a really large Chinese Tallow tree and this year it is loaded with the seeds still in the green stage. I found this article and the input from the public very informative. I live in North Florida if anybody is interested in getting the seeds. I am 77 and am not able to harvest them. No charge.

I think the seeds when dry would make interesting art projects.


Karen September 22, 2014 at 17:11

I wish the person who had success with the screw press would give more information… exactly what press, and what process. I looked at a couple of presses, and can’t see how they would work… also, with my trees, it seems like the white part disappears, leaving the inner seeds. hmmm????
My goats love the leaves, and eat them every chance they get. That seems to be the best use for the tree.
Also, I’m wondering how the dye works with the leaves???
thx for compiling this info… maybe some day I’ll figure it out.


F.B. Anderson June 1, 2014 at 11:18

Is it even safe to burn the wood outside, side the bark is posion?



Green Deane June 2, 2014 at 13:00

As it is a common tree I would think there would be reports of said if burning the wood is toxic. I have not read any such comments or warnings.


Jay February 11, 2014 at 13:08

A pressure cooker takes the outer waxy covering off…no idea if it extracts the toxic seed oil. Most probably not energy efficient, of course.


Green Deane February 11, 2014 at 16:09

If hot, the different oils should separate.


Chaz Mikell June 12, 2013 at 01:07

Hi Deane,
I am interested in the Chinese Talow tree as they are a very invasive plant all over South Mississippi. Last summer when I was on a video shoot at a fish hatchery near Wiggens, Mississippi, I passed a farm of tongue (oil) trees which had a sign on the gate announcing them as the Mississippi Tongue Oil Cooperative. Further research has turned up the Mississippi Tongue Oil Corporation in Lumerton, MS. Rumor has it that when the tongue oil industry was in its hayday around the 1920’s to ’30’s, that the Chinese Tallow Tree was being cultivated as another possibility for the vegitable oil market in the state. I am going to contact the MTOC and find out what their recommended method for wax and oil extraction from the Tallow Tree seeds are. I know the tongue oil seed has a very hard shell and takes quite a process to extract and process. I’ll let you know what they tell me about the Tallow Tree.
Best Regards,


Eleanor May 21, 2017 at 12:41

Just an informative note: It’s tung oil, t-u-n-g.


Sakhiwo Pasha June 7, 2017 at 09:16

Hello Chaz.

I am based in South Africa and in need of the Chinese Tallow seeds. Can you please assist me

Kind regards.


JC Soaper June 8, 2013 at 15:07

I’ve been searching for CVT samples to do some evaluation for soap making. CVT is the harder, outer layer of the seed as I understand, that could be a good soap feedstock. Do you know where I can get 1-2 kg of this oil ? Also, if you are aware of commercialization effort I would be interested in discussing possibilities on a larger scale.

Thanks in advance for your kind help !


Susan April 14, 2013 at 17:15

This Website indicates there is a wax covered seed inside each white capsule. If so, then it stands to reason that the white outer cover would have to be cracked open or removed before the wax could be melted off the seed. I guess I’ll have to wait for the fall to experiment.


Candy April 10, 2013 at 03:34

My dog has been gobbling these berries up every time we take a walk as one of these Chinese Tallow Trees is in the front yard. It drops berries all over the driveway and a large part of the yard. I thought it was a mulberry tree or something, but researching it- I’m almost sure it is a Chinese Tallow Tree. Recently, I took some of her urine in to the vet and the vet is concerned because the urine was quite diluted. The vet is concerned about her kidneys. I thought she might have a urinary tract infection, hence why I took hers and her sister’s in to be tested. Her sister does not eat the berries. Can eating these berries cause any kind of kidney damage? I am very concerned about her. She has been sort of more listless and very clinging to me- which is not her normal way. She usually runs and plays and then comes back to me to give kisses and then runs off again. She has been sitting and lying down a lot more. Again, the main question is whether this toxin causes damage to a dog’s kidney? Thanks so much for your answer. Candy


Green Deane April 10, 2013 at 07:10

Dog and humans differ so what or what might not harm dogs or us can be the same or quite different. The seed oil (as opposed to the external wax on the seed) has similar resins as tung oil which can cause kidney damage in humans. One saving grace is that dogs’ digestsive system is short so it might be a lot of little doses that is doing the damage not one big one. Could make adifference.


Deja Land December 9, 2016 at 09:52

We bought our house and moved in. My little dog was eating these berries (unbeknownst to me but my bf said she has been gobbling them up) – it has been a month – she is now in the vet hooked up to an IV bc she has been incredibly tired and not her normal self. Her kidneys are damaged and her levels are high. She has always been energetic!


Green Deane December 14, 2016 at 17:27

It is the seed oil that is toxic.


LinZ March 25, 2013 at 22:08

Should I be concern that my dogs go crazy over the seeds? I have a forest of tallows in my back yard. I have 2 puppies who love the seeds and chow down on them just like the birds.



Green Deane March 27, 2013 at 09:36

Well…yes but if they are still alive… animals have different systems than we including dogs.


Cyndi March 5, 2013 at 09:53

In searching my ears off, I found some interesting information, some concerning adding lipase to extract the tallow, yet the majority of results stand by the following extraction from Yields and Economics: Tallow is separated by placing the seed in hot water, thereby melting the tallow which floats on the surface, or by melting tallow with steam and collecting it when it drops off. Solvent extraction of the tallow from the seed is also used, tallow still adhering to the seed being removed by an alkali treatment. The fairly thick hard shell prevents extraction of the oil inside, so that the seed is crushed and Stillingia Oil is obtained by pressing or solvent extraction. According to one report, seed contains about 20% oil, 24% tallow, 11% extracted meat, 8% fibrous coat and 37% shell.

Read more at :
Yields and Economics;

So I wonder if the white coating is cracked, wouldnt that allow penetration by the heat, water, or enzymes to extract the tallow without liberating the inner seed?


Green Deane March 7, 2013 at 06:09

The problem is I have put the seeds in hot water and nothing happens.


Juan Mejias December 11, 2012 at 22:36

Hello. I have had great results, using a press.
I purchased a hand operated screw press (on line, about 100. bucks) from India. The press is also heated by an oil lamp.
The results were a mix of oil and wax. Once you let the oil mix sit for a while the wax floats to the top and the oil sits on the bottom.
The wax melts quickly and is just as strong as candle wax once you run it through a screen (panty hose) to remove any debris and unwanted material.
My daugther and I made a candle out of the wax and used the oil in a small oil lamp. The candle burns well but melts a little to fast, so we mixed it with a small amount of regular candel wax to make it more stable.
As for the left over cake we fed it to our chickens with no ill effect.
Once we gather more seeds we are going to try making our own bio-diesel and soap with the left over gylcerin.
My daughter has won three science fairs and two scholar ships using the tallow tree as her project. I personally love the tree and believe we need to tap into its good to control its bad invasive habit.


Green Deane December 12, 2012 at 07:14

Interesting particularly for industrial uses. We are having a difficult time getting the external saturated fat safely separated from the toxic oil. I wonder if your “wax” is that external fat and how contaminated it is with the toxic seed oil. If te oil is only on the outside of the “wax” maybe one can rinse it off.


Stephanie Broussard January 13, 2013 at 01:06

I have been trying to find out how to make soap from this for a while and wasn’t able to find info. Can you send me some information? Particularly, the glycerin?


Chaz Mikell June 12, 2013 at 00:39

Hi Juan,
I have a television program called ‘COOKING WILD’. It is about wild foraging, survival, and living a self-sifficient and self-reliant lifestyle. We would like to talk to you about appearing onthe show and demonstrating your methods and uses of the Chinese Talow Tree. Please contact me by email at your convenience. Thanks.
Chaz Mikell, Executive Producer
Cooking Wild


Darrell Martin January 16, 2015 at 17:57

Your post on the press was just what I have been searching for. I just invested in a taby 40c press and doing the resarch phase of making our own seed press oils. I already distill essential oils form native plants.
The tallow has a particular interest because of its invasive nature and my concept that everything is useful in its own way. I have a gallon of the cleaned seeds to try out this weekend and it is heated with a collar.
Your reference was the first I found there anyone demonstrated what I thought to be the case. I was going to try it anyway but hearing your experience, gives me a much greater confidence.
Congrats to your daughter by the way.
Your friend


Kathleen October 31, 2012 at 18:53

It’s the season, there are tallow trees everywhere (SE Louisiana), and I’ve tried this after reading all over on the web how you can supposedly melt the wax off by boiling the seeds. Stuck them in very salty water in the microwave for 10 minutes. The wax got softer but still did not float off into a layer that could be skimmed.

I then put them into a dry bowl and mashed them around with a spoon, and some of the wax came off in soft flakes. I wonder if they could be rubbed with a cloth, and enough wax would come off that way to get a usable amount. Maybe put them into a pillowcase or muslin bag and rub like crazy, and the wax would come off.

I’ll try a handful in my pressure cooker and let you know. I’ve read that the wax “becomes a solid at 40 C,” which implies it isn’t impossible to melt in boiling water. Something must have gotten lost in translation (?). Unless the portion that melts is clear, leaving still the white waxy coating. But that doesn’t seem likely.

Supposedly, the wax can also be extracted with gasoline and acetone. I soaked some in acetone nail polish remover, but nothing happened. This isn’t something I’d want to do to make edible oil/wax, but I got curious. Perhaps some heat and/or pressure is required with those methods; I may not have read well enough.


Merriwether August 7, 2012 at 17:36

Deane, the last time I was in China I asked around about this tree and how to get the outer, white oil off the seeds. According to several different shopkeepers in a “medicinals” market in Guangzhou, the ripe nuts were heated in boiling water to soften the tallow and then scraped over a metal grate that looked like a cheese-grater. The grater was thin but made of strong metal with holes in the grate about 0.3-0.5 centimeters in diameter. The grater was set over a bowl and as the nuts were rubbed across the grater the white tallow was scrapped off by the edge of the holes. According to the different shopkeepers this was a slow process that also caused skinned knuckles.

I’ve done a number of google searches since then to find the grater but without luck.


Richard Jones April 8, 2012 at 11:08

Green Dean,
Hope you’re enjoying this beautiful Spring – lovely here in Louisiana with new wildflowers and plants appearing almost weekly. I too have been trying to figure out how to get the white tallow separated from the seed of the chinese tallow tree.
I got a big surprise when I had the idea of putting the seeds under the broiler in my kitchen stove. After several minutes, very loud popping almost like gunfire! I didn’t dare open the door until the popping stopped. Every seed had exploded – I guess the stillingia expanded inside the hard shell and caused the explosions. There was an oily film on the oven walls and no sign of the white tallow.
Maybe that’s why they call it the POPCORN tree!
Happy Foraging!
Richard Jones (Delneter on Youtube)


Bonnie October 3, 2015 at 23:17

HAHAHA!!! I was worried about that myself. Nithing happened…including wax. :-/


Ralph Montgomery November 20, 2016 at 17:31

Interesting reading on this site, although no one has mentioned about eating the seeds. As a young boy I could burn dead branches of the chinese tallow tree in our old outdoor fire pit and I heard all the popping sounds too, & seeing the hot popped seeds lying around, I found that I could place a bunch of the seeds in a tin coffee can into the fire and let them explode most but not all of them would shoot out of the can. I ate the seeds that had been cooked and they were tasty. Still alive today


Green Deane November 22, 2016 at 15:20

By all reports the seed oil is toxic. That you did not get immediately ill does not mean they are edible. Sometime one has to eat something over time for it to damage or kill you. Many plant damage your liver or kidneys a little at a time with the effects taking a while to accumulate. Where they are native the natives did not eat the seeds but did use the outer tallow.


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