Cracking the secret of argan oil

This article was originally published on Visit Morocco.

Argan oil is extracted from trees that only grow is one particular area of the world, near Morocco’s Atlantic coast. It is renowned in the health and beauty industry for its incredible moisturising properties and has a number of wider uses.

It was the last day of our trip and we were off to visit Coopérative Marjana; an argan oil cooperative. On the way there, we finally passed the famous tree goats that I was so desperate to see – goats are my favourite animals! As we drove the long, straight road, between Marrakech and Essaouira I finally spotted them; just another Argan tree on the side of the road, but this one was full of goats! It was quite a sight as they balanced on the branches, eating the fruit normal as anything. Of course we pulled over for a photo which I promptly sent to everyone back home!

Argan trees only grow in Morocco and somehow they can’t survive anywhere else which is why argan oil can be so expensive. Whilst some places use the seeds that the goats pass to bring the price down, the women at this cooperative pick the fruit and retrieve the seed by hand, that way, the seeds keep more of their nutrients and it becomes certified argan oil.

Once we were all off of the buses (all 50 of us – it was a pretty big group) we piled into a room to watch the process of creating the oil. The cooperative means that the women all work together, switching up jobs and doing a little bit of everything, then they split their pay at the end. As we entered the room where they were working, a number of the women began ululating. I learned that the high pitched noises were called barwalá or youyou here, and that it’s essentially a friendly expression of excitement and happiness, which all added to the authentic experience.

The first step was to separate the skin from the seeds. The women sat together on the floor using a rock to crack the nut and then peel off the skin (which is then given to the goats and camels as food.) The nut then goes on to another section where there is more hitting it with a rock until the shells comes off leaving the argan seed inside.

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