In the back country of Essaouira thrives a tree that is found only in
A few sheep graze on the rare yellow grasses that grow thickly under this spiny tree: it obviously has something special. Goats climb it with surprising agility, hanging onto the branches and finally settling down to eat the argan, a fruit that looks like an olive with nourishing pulp. As for the very hard pit, it is expelled. The inhabitants of these remote regions don’t hesitate to collect these pits which contain a kernel from which this incomparable oil is extracted.
This is a purely local but delightful anecdote, a little story of a village where the fruit pickers have four legs.
In fact, the principles of harvesting argan are similar to those of olive-picking. One hectare of argan trees can produce 800 kg of ripe nuts which produce 40 kg of almond-like kernels. These 40 kg of kernels will in turn yield 18 litres of argan oil. The ripe fruits are crushed by hand to separate the pulp from the pits, thus removing the soft green skin. The pits are then broken in half to remove the kernels, which once roasted, are ground and pressed to extract the oil.
Argan oil is prepared according to artisanal methods in every home, exclusively by women. Producing one litre of argan oil requires about 8 hours of labour.
The oil has a sandy colour like the desert sand. It is very mild, and in the tradition of Mediterranean countries, it is poured into a small dish for bread to be dipped into. It is served on its own and doesn’t pair well with vinegars. Its taste, buttery with nutty overtones, is pure delight.
Moreover, argan oil has some exceptional properties. Two spoonfuls taken every morning on an empty stomach will, they say, give you back the hourglass figure of a twenty-year old. Wait for an hour or two before having breakfast. It has also been discovered that argan oil contains anti-aging properties and there is presently a line of beauty products in development based on argan oil.
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