ARGAN OIL’S ANCIENT HISTORY
Argan oil is beautiful golden oil with a slightly reddish tinge, which comes from the Argan Tree of Morocco. For centuries, the Berber people of Morocco have used the oil for its numerous culinary, cosmetic and medicinal benefits. The argan tree is under the protection of UNESCO due to its dwindling numbers and difficult growing conditions. Argan is one of the most rare and expensive oils in the world because of its limited quantity and traditional production methods. For this reason it is often referred to it as…
Liquid Gold from Morocco
The Argan tree is believed to have originated in the town of Argana, a village north east of the Moroccan city, Agadir. It lives longer than the olive tree and requires no cultivation. The trunk of the tree is twisted and gnarled, allowing goats to climb its branches and feed on the leaves and fruit. It is possible to see this magnificent site while driving in the southwest regions of Morocco. The fruit has a green fleshy exterior much like an olive but larger and rounder. There is a nut inside the fruit, which has an extremely hard shell and contains one to three almond shaped kernels.
The goats eat the fruit leaving the nut behind. The nuts are collected by farmers and produced into the argan oil by a very arduous process. The production of argan oil is still mostly done by traditional methods. The production of one liter of oil takes about 20 hours of hands on labor. The production of the argan oil is still a cottage industry, managed by co-operatives of women. It provides employment to many women and families in the region.
TRADITION METHODS OF ARGAN OIL PRODUCTION
The pulping is a separation of the dry exterior pulp from the inside nut. The nut or “aqua” is solid and there may be 1-3 in each casing. The nut is placed on a stone and another stone is used to open it with precision and dexterity.
The crushing is a manual step in which the “aqua”, Argan almonds, are crushed into a think paste. This stage is very difficult and has not been able to be reproduced by machinery.
The Argan past is placed into a stone mill in which an Argan meal is produced. A stone mill machine to reduce the flavor and give the oil neutrality processes the cosmetic oil. The culinary oil is processed by a traditional stone mill, which allows the nutty flavor and aroma to be preserved. The culinary nuts are roasted before the grinding takes place.
Manual Mixing of the Argan Meal
This is the most difficult and tiring step. The Argan meal is hand mixed with long circular strokes going both fast and slow. The meal becomes a paste and then a loaf of Argan meal is prepared, known as the “tazquemout.”
Pressing the Argan Loaf
The Argan loaf is pressed by hand in order to extract a maximum amount of oil. This is a slow and difficult process. Once the maximum amount of oil has been retrieved, the oil is ready for filtration. The remaining loaf is given to animals or sold to the cosmetics industry to be used in shampoos and other products having Argan extracts.
Filtering of the Argan Oil
In this stage the Argan oil is filtered manually several times. The Argon oil has a thick, dense and raw quality since it has been hand pressed. This helps to preserve its wonderful original flavor and aroma. It also maintains all the vital nutrients that give it its magnificent medicinal properties.
ALTERNATIVE ARGAN OIL PRODUCTION METHODS
- Time consuming and done by hand by local women in the Co-Operatives
- Skill and experience that is passed down for many generations
- Produces a high quality oil but less quantity is available for commercial purposes
- Argan seeds are pressed and ground using with and electric and hydraulic press
- Benefit is a higher yield and less manual labor
- Consistency in the oil is better as less water is added
- Some manufacturers expose the oils to higher temperatures which may change the fatty acid structure and reduce the benefits of the oils
- Some producers add the pulp and nut to the processing which creates a bitter oil
- This method can be valuable if the production company and culture of the producer is ethical and concerned about quality and honesty
Chemical Extraction Methods
- The seeds are pulverized and suspended in a chemical solvent
- The chemicals are vaporized and the oil remains however, some of the chemical residue remains
- The oil yield is much higher but the oil has lost most of its valuable nutrients
- Not the way we recommend!