Description of Oil Bearing Plants and First Century Oil Extraction in Egypt taken from Pliny the Elder (23 AD -79 AD).
Copied from John G. Wilkinson, The Ancient Egyptians Vol. II (1854) -- Public Domain
The Carthamus (safflower) was not only cultivated for the dye its flower produced, but for the oil extracted from its seeds. The ancient, as well as the modern Egyptians, also obtained oil from other plants such as the olive, simsim or sesamum, the cici or castor-berry tree, lettuce, flax, and selgam or coleseed. This last the brassica oleifera of Linnaeus, appears to be the Egyptian raphanus mentioned by Pliny, as "celebrated for the abundance of its oil," unless he alludes to the seemga, or Raphanus oleifer of Linnaeus, which is now only grown in Nubia and the vicinity of the first cataract. The seeds of the simsim also afforded an excellant oil, and they were probably used, as at the present day, in making a peculiar kind of cake, called by the Arabs Koosbeh, which is the name it bears when the oil has been previously extracted,. When only bruised in the mill, and still containing the oil, it is called Taheeneh; and the unbruised seeds are strewed upon the cakes, or give their name and flavour to a coarse conserve called Haloweh simsemeeh. The oil of simsim (called seerig) is considered the best lamp oil of the country; it is also used for cooking, but is reckoned inferior in flavour to that of lettuce (sesame oil was listed as a commodity by the ancient Mesopotamians long before the Roman era). The castor-berry tree is called by Herodotus Sillicyprion, and the oil kiki (cici), which he says in not inferior to that of the olive for lamps, though it has the disadvantage of a strong unpleasant smell. Pliny calls the tree cici, which he adds, "grows abundantly in Egypt, and also the names of croton, trixis, tree sesamum, and ricinus;" and he records his very natural dislike of castor-oil. The mode he mentions of extracting the oil by putting the seeds into water over a fire, and skimming the oil from the surface, is the manner now adopted in Egypt; although he says the ancient Egyptians merely pressed them after sprinkling them with salt. The press, indeed, is employed for this purpose at the present day, when the oil is only wanted for lamps; but by the other method it is more pure, and the coarser qualities not being extracted, it is better suited for medicinal purposes. Strabo says, "Almost all the natives of Egypt used its oil for lamps, and workmen, as well as the poorer classes, both men and women, anointed themselves with it," giving it the same name, kiki, as Pliny which he does not confine, like Herodotus, to the oil: and of all those by which it was formerly known in Egypt or Greece, no one is retained by the modern Egyptians. It grows in every part of Upper and Lower Egypt; but the oil is now little used, in consequences of the extensive culture of the lettuce, the coleseed, the olive, the carthamus, and the simsim, which afford a better quality for burning: it is, therefore, seldom employed except for the purpose of adulterating the lettuce and other oils; and the Ricnius, though a common plant, is rarely cultivated in any other part of the country.
The cnicon, a plant unknown in Italy, according to Pliny, was sown in Egypt for the sake of the oil its seeds afforded; the chorticon, urtica, and amaracus were cultivated for the same purpose, and the cypros, "a tree resembling the ziziphus in its foliage, with seeds like coriander, was noted in Egypt, particularly on the Canopic branch of the Nile. Egypt was also famed for its "oil of bitter almonds;" and many other vegetable productions were encouraged for the sake of their oil, for making ointments, or for medicinal purposes.
Additional notes from Wilkinson's tables:
Sesame - Gives an oil. Ripens in about 100
Cypros/cyprus - lawsonia spinosa et inermis, hennah, "Bearing leaves like the zizyphus. Cooked in oil to make the ointment called cyprus. The best grown about canopus. Leaves dye the hair." Pliny.
Amygdalus/almond - Amygdulus communis (Arab. loz), "Oil of the bitter almonds made in Egypt," Pliny.
Olive - The olives of Egypt very flesh, but with little oil." Plin. xv 13. This is very true. Strabo says, "the Arsinoite nome alone (excepting the gardens of Alexandria) produces the olive. The oil is very good if carefully extracted; if not the quantity is great, but with a strong odor." xvii p. 566
Cici, Croton, Trixis, or wild Sesamum - Ricinus communis. (Arab. Kharwah) Castorberry tree, or Palma Christi. "Oil extracted from it abounds in Egypt." Pliny.
Raphanus - Raphanus oleifer, or the Brassica oleifer (Seemga of Nubia; or the Selgum of Egypt?) "Oil madr from its seeds in Egypt." Pliny. Iti is probably the Seemga or Raphanus oleifer, and not the sativus, that he alludes to. He may perhaps have had the view the Selgam (Brassica oleifer), or coleseed, so common throughout Egypt. the seemga is now confined to Nubia and the southern extremity of the Thebaid.
Uritica, called Cnecimum, or Cnidium. Urtica pilulifera (Arab. Fiss el Kelab) "Giving an oil." "The Alexandrian the best quality." "Used also medicinally." Pliny. Supposed to be a nettle.
Amaracus - Origanum Marjorana. "What is called by Diocles, and teh Sicilians, Amaracus, is known in Egypt and Syria as the Sampsuchum." "An oil made from it." Pliny Athenaeus (xv. p. 676) says, "the Amaracus abounds in Egypt;" and in lib. v, he mentions "Amaracine ointment."
Cnicus, or Atractylis - Carthamus tinctorius? (Arab. Koortum). The other perhaps the Carthamus Creticus?. Supposed to be the Carthamus (Safflower). "Unknown in Italy. Oil extracted from the seeds, and of great value. Two kinds; the wild and the cultivated; and the two species of the former. Remedy against the poison of scorpions and other reptiles." Pliny. It is supposed that the Cnicus and the Atractylis are not the same plant.
Not listed as an oil plant like the brassica mustard, yet
a mustard species was the:
Sinapis, Mustard - Sinapis junceae, (Arab Khardel, or Kubbr.) - "The best seed is the Egyptian. Called also Napy, Thaspi, and Saurion." Pliny.