The Argan Tree

argan oil tree

 The tree of life: Argan tree

The argan trees are the root of the oldest Moroccan culture. These trees are found in the desert conditions of Souss and Haha valley of southwestern Morocco. They are highly resistant in extreme conditions of heat, dryness, rockiness and aridity.  The branches of these trees are thorny with gnarled trunk and flowering petals.

The Argan trees are originated in Argana, a Berber village on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. About 175 square miles area is covered by these 21 million trees between Essaouira and Guelmim regions of southern Morocco. These trees well adopt them to drought and are vital to prevent the desertification of the region because their deep roots stabilize the soil and decrease erosion. Therefore they save the agricultural land and are important for both economic and environmental resource of the region. Since the number of trees is declining therefore many preservation efforts has been started to protect this unique and endangered resource.

Argan trees grow 7-10 meters in height. They only require small amounts of water and they do not require any care or maintenance. Since the sensitivity of salt is very low in them therefore their trunk is very massive, thick and solid. They can live up to 200 years. They are one of the oldest trees on the earth and according to scientists these tree has existed for 80 million years.

The fruit of argan tree is of olive shape, only a bit bigger, rounder and harder. It is of green color. Inside the fruit, there is a nut which contains between one to three kernels.

The seeds of the kernels of the argan tree are used to produce argan oil which is also called liquid gold. Morocco’s mountain goats climb the argan tree to get the nuts. They drop the completely undigested seeds on the ground. Then the seeds are gathered by oil producers to produce argan oil. In larger commercial factories the process of production is automated and implemented by machines. Production of argan oil is also done by women but the process is very long and exhausting. It requires cracking of each and every nut. It is claimed that in order to produce one liter of argan oil by this method 20 working hours are required.

                          Other benefits of argan tree

Instead of argan oil, argan tree also provides other benefits to the Souss valley where it grows.

  • Provides employment- Argan oil provides women with opportunities to become their own agents of development. Argan oil supports cooperative societies where Berber women extract the oil that is sold and then share the profits for their mutual benefit. As a result, employment in argan contributes to create a space for women in the local economy. Income of women allows their daughters to attend school, pay their electricity, repair their homes, compensate for their husband’s unemployment and buy health care for themselves and their children.
  • Protects environment- Argan trees have long, questing root systems that go deep into the search of water table. The depth of root system means the trees are firmly anchored to the ground, which protects the soil from erosion, provides stability to the soil and maintains moisture in the air.
  • Preserves an indigenous resource- Many efforts are underway to implement sustainable development programs that protect the argan forest and promote planting trees as the argan tree is very important to the economy and culture of the Souss and Ha’ha valley.
  • Other benefits- Argan tree provides wood and nut shells that are burned for cooking in the local area. It also shelters a variety of small animals, shades the native people and provides sustenance for them.

            How to identify good argan oil?

The best argan oil is produced from high quality nuts using a cold- press extraction method. It has aromatic nutty smell. It is smooth, non-sticky and not too watery. When applied to the skin it quickly absorbs the oil. It is stored in dark glass bottles to protect it from sunlight as clear packing will make the oil deteriorate.

The color of argan oil is golden yellow. The pure argan oil has no strong fragrance and added color. Preservatives and other unnecessary ingredients are not there in the pure argan oil.  Pure argan oil will congeal if refrigerated.

There are almost unlimited positive results from the use of argan oil. Therefore it is also called liquid gold. It is a natural treasure whose merits are becoming known worldwide.

                  How argan oil is produced?

Traditional hand pressing method is used by Berber women to extract argan oil from the nuts of the argan tree. But today this method is replaced largely by mechanized production.

What is the process of producing argan oil?

When the argan fruits are ready to harvest, they are then removed from the trees and collected by groups. Then the fruits are dried in the sun to remove pulp from them. After the pulp is removed, a brown nut is extracted. Then these nuts are cracked open. Inside the nuts there are 2-3 pale yellow kernels. Then these kernels are pressed. Hand extraction method is the common method to complete this work, but there are many side effects of this technique. The women using this method don’t take care of cleanliness and this technique uses water and decreases the oil stability. Therefore machines are now used to improve efficiency and to preserve the oil’s potency.

After pressing, the oil is left to rest for two weeks, which allows any solids to settle to the bottom of the container. Then the oil is either simply filtered to produce oil which keeps an Argan nut scent or double filtered to extract additional sediments. The double filtration process produces oil that has almost no Argan nut smell. Then it is stored in brown bottles to protect it from oxidation and other harmful environmental effects.

Smell of argan oil

There is various smells of argan oil in different cases. The smell of simple filtered argan oil is similar to olive oil and with a little citrus fruit fragrance. The smell of cold pressed argan oil is sweeter and like perfume. Hand extracted argan oil has stronger smell and there is no smell of double filtered argan oil. Therefore the smell of argan oil depends on the age of the nuts, the region where they were grown and the way in which they were harvested and store.

The smell of argan oil is also affected by the nutrients in the soil. Argan nuts from one region may yield stronger smelling oil but another region may have a milder odor smelling oil.

Why argan oil is deodorized?

Deodorized argan oil is one of the latest products in the market. This oil is actually oil which has no smell at all. First time users of this oil find the nutty smell very irritating. Buying Deodorized Argan oil can solve this problem and helps you to use the oil on a daily basis without much trouble. To deodorize the oil steams or chemicals are used. The oil is heated to an extremely high temperature for two hours which removes its odor. But this process also destroys many of the oil’s natural beneficial qualities.

To remove nutty smell filtering process should be used as this process yields light weight oil that is easily absorbed by skin, hair and nails maintaining the oil’s quality.

Why argan oil is costly?

Obtaining argan oil is a labor- intensive process. It takes more than 20 hours to produce a single liter of argan oil. The supply of argan oil is limited and the demand of argan oil is increasing day- by-day. Also, the transportation charges and the import and export tax are also applied to the argan oil. Therefore the argan oil is expensive. There are many products in the market which call themselves Argan oil or Moroccan oil and they are also very affordable but they are not pure argan oil. To keep its price low, many producers mix argan oil with other cheaper oils. Therefore beware of the duplicate argan oils.

There are unlimited benefits of the argan oil and these will only come when we use pure argan oil not with the duplicate one.

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