Argan oil and the world’s fastest growing tree!?
Is this the world’s fastest growing tree? No… of course not I’m only kidding…
Actually this goat, like most goats in south-west Morocco, loves to climb trees, but not just any old tree – Moroccan goats love Argan trees.
The Berber love their Argan trees too. These thorny trees can live for up to 200 years and provide a very special nut which contains oil rich seeds that the Berber harvest to extract the precious oil for tasty bread dips and for producing things like massage oils and skin treatments.
All over south-west Morocco there are women’s co-operatives processing the Argan seeds to extract the oil. The process is fascinating and nothing is wasted as I was to find out at one of these co-operatives on the road to Essaouira.
Visiting this particular co-operative proved to be one of the highlights of my trip to Morocco as the women spontaneously burst into song whilst they were processing the Argan. This in itself was amazing, but I also got to see close up something that has always fascinated me… ululation.
I have heard it before in a few countries, but this time I was only a few feet away from the woman doing it and could see how she moved her tongue from side to side repetitively in her mouth… I still don’t get it mind you, but it is just one of those sounds you never forget.
Apparently she was ‘ululating’ because the women were happy that we’d spent some money!
Maybe they do this for all the tourists, but hey it felt like it was just for us – unforgettable!
Back to the Argan oil…
First the soft pulp (used as animal feed) is removed, then the hard nuts are cracked by hand, between two stones.
The seeds are then sorted and roasted which gives the oil its distinctive nutty flavour. The roasted seeds are then ground down to a paste using a stone rotary quern with the help of a little water.
The women then squeeze the paste to extract the oil. Again, the left over paste is patted into round bricks and used as animal feed.
Apparently Argan oil contains nearly 80% unsaturated fats and is better for you than olive oil, but don’t mention that to the Italians!
The Berber love to use Argan oil as a dip when eating bread, or they’ll put a little on their couscous or salads. A popular dip is ‘Amlou’ – a Moroccan almond dip with Argan oil… hmmm, yum yum!