When the petals of the camellia fall in As Rías Baixas, they draw a flower carpet that attracts people from all over the world. The variety of colours in the garden also makes an impression on the visitors. One can play to compare the size of the flowers as well as the colours and smell of some varieties to live a perfect winter experience and the magic of the flower that came from the East. However, the camellias offer much more. They come from tree branches and they arrive to the kitchen.
Its cooking aspect may be one of its unknown uses. Certainly, it is not the first ingredient that comes to mind when you are in front of the stove; at least, it is not catalogued as a traditional ingredient of the Galician cuisine and no, it would not come to mind straight away. Nonetheless, the camellia oil was consumed centuries ago in the Sui Dynasty of China. In fact, the production of this oil is the second most important use of this flower in China, just like the experts Mansilla and Salinero explained.
The composition of this oil is very similar to the olive oil regarding the fatty acids. Both types of oil present a series of similitudes such as their low saturated fat content or their monounsaturated fat content. Moreover, this oil helps to prevent coronary diseases.
With respect to its taste and smell, the camellia oil has a light tea taste and scent with a soft touch of walnut. Yellow coloured, with a shade of light green, it can be an alternative to the olive oil used in dressings, stews, marinades and fried food, among others. Its chemical composition provides a high smoke point. In fact, it stands out as the edible oil with the highest smoke point. According to these experts, this point makes reference to the temperature at which the oil starts to produce smoke; when the oil reaches this point it loses its properties because of the deterioration of the fatty acids.
But let us get back to where we were: at the stoves and in the cultivation of the camellia oil. The research centre Estación Fitopatolóxica Areeiro, where a small plantation of camellia was established for the production of seeds, is working on its cultivation and study. However, most flowers that are part of the research carried out in this centre, come from other gardens, where the fruits are collected between the months of September and October. Additionally, there are many garden owners that donate their seeds in order to obtain their oil, getting 80% of the collected oil in return. According to the technicians working at Areeiro, the rest of the oil is used to analyse the main quality parameters.
The growing demand for oil guides these steps. Both for cooking and for seasoning, the health benefits of the camellia are many and they are particularly linked to the control of blood cholesterol levels. Nowadays, apart from finding the camellia on oil, it can be combined with other ingredients such as grapes, rice, octopus, meat or fish. These ingredients blend with the camellia and they are used for defining flavours that are always surprising. They succumb to the camellia, either in petals, oil reduction, infusions or salads, among many other forms of preparation. Both small restaurants and renowned chefs use this flower and its derived products for their creations because the most popular use of the camellia is tea.
Tea is obtained from the tender leaves and shoots of the species Camellia sinensis, never from other species. The various forms of drying, wrapping, fermenting and toasting the leaves are what make the different types of tea, which are basically white, green, semi-fermented, red and black. Moreover, additional plants can also be added in order to aromatize them. The seed of the Camellia sinensis species also contains oil but in quantities below 10%, that, after its extraction, it is also used for culinary purposes.
Recetas de la Camelia
- Yayo Daporta Bloc of foie gras and camellia
- PEPE SOLLA Camellia tea with citrus
- IÑAKI BRETAL The camellia. Flavours, textures… combined with other touches
- RAFA CENTENO Cauliflower, curry and camellia and citrus vinaigrette dressing
- ALBERTO PRELCIC Lemon mousse, green camellia tea and cocoa beans
- ANTONIO BOTANA White chocolate ganache, camellia blend infusion, dry petals and green tea powder with syrup
- PEPE VIEIRA Ginger and camellia oil brined seasonal fruits with lime and camellia ice cream
- JAVIER OLLEROS Camellia soup with green tea ice-cream and aromatic oil
- PABLO ROMERO Crème brûlée infused with camellia leaves and baked apples
- CARLOS OROZA Arzúa cheesecake with camellia oil and camellia petals