What part of the Cotton Plant is Edible?

Posted by Douglas Gray on 31st Oct 2014

What part of the Cotton Plant is Edible? It is very true that this is a plant that will not harm you if digested in small quantities, but receiving nourishment from it is not the same thing. For all practical purposes the fibers have no nutritional values to be included in a diet for humanity. What has value is the seed itself. The cottonseed is presently being used for the creation of an oil used in many homes and restaurants today. The cotton seed has to first have the toxic compound Gossypol removed before it should be processed into oil or ingested.

Cotton Jacket

There is also a group of scientists that have decided to genetically engineer a cotton plant so the gene that stimulates the growth of the gossypol is reduced. This chemical is considered to be toxic to humans, because if taken in large quantities it negatively affects the liver and kidneys. Because of gossypol, the eating of cottonseeds only practical for cows and sheep, as their digestive systems bind the toxin, and remove the danger of it for them. Young animals are susceptible to the compound, so it is not fed to young herds. Because of this the gossypol has to be reduced in order to get the other benefits of the cottonseed for humans to consume.

Most people are unaware that each cottonseed is made up of nearly 22% protein. To remove the toxin from the cottonseed today so it can be used as an additive, there is a distinctive three step process that must be adhered to so the reduction in the gossypol is at a level that will not harm humans. The three steps include refining, bleaching and deodorizing the seeds. 

This three step process is expensive but makes it possible for the seed to be used to stabilize the flavor to what it is added too. Today you can find cottonseed on many of the mayonnaise and other salad dressings on the grocery shelves across America. 

While the 22% protein it contains could be used to feed many of the poorer people around the world, there is a hold back on reducing the gossypol from the cotton plant. This gossypol component is a natural insecticide the plant produces to help reduce the damage done by those small little creatures. If it is removed from the plant, more artificial insecticides would have to be applied to the cotton plant to generate the same level of production. God created the Cotton plant with its own protection, so to add more insecticides to our world would not be wise.

For making cottonseed oil, Ferric chloride is used which reduces the level of gossypol and makes the oil safe for humans to use for cooking and other food related consumption. This oil has the seventh highest smoke point at 420F and is the third lowest in mono-unsaturated fats of all the vegetable oils on the market today. It also contains Linoleic and Oleic acids.

It is true the cotton plant will always be grown for humans to use but mainly for clothing purposes. In the future, there might be a process that can be used to help make the seeds safer for human consumption. Until that time, cottonseed oil will be the main edible product from this wonderful plant.