Culinary Moroccan Argan Oil: What is it and How is it Made?
What is Culinary Moroccan Argan Oil?
Culinary argan oil comes from cold pressing the seed of the argan fruit grown on argan trees. Argan trees are only found in one region of southwestern Morocco. Thus, argan oil is a truly authentic Moroccan export. Today, argan oil is sold for cosmetic and culinary purposes, as it has many natural healing properties. The main difference between cosmetic and culinary argan oil is that the argan nut is toasted before it is cold pressed to make culinary argan oil. This creates a beautiful oil that is aromatic and has a wonderful toasted nutty flavor.
The History of Argan Oil
Argan oil has taken the world by storm, but Moroccans have known about and used this liquid gold for generations. It has been used in the beauty rituals of Moroccan women since the age of antiquity. It has been recorded that the Phoenicians in 1550 BC used argan oil. In the 16th century, it first made it’s way to Europe in trade as an “exotic” oil.
How is Culinary Moroccan Argan Oil Produced?
Argan trees produce a fruit that looks similar to an olive. When the fruit is ripe, it falls from the tree and it is then gathered up by hand. The exterior kernel becomes dry and shriveled. It needs to be removed to access the interior nut that holds the oil.
The argan-making process is mainly done by womens' cooperatives in Morocco. It is hard work, as the process of cracking the argan fruit to remove the seeds is done by hand. However, the high demand for argan oil has created many jobs for the women of Morocco.
Each argan shell is cracked by hand between two stones to remove the interior seed. It takes 35 kilograms of argan fruit to make 1 liter of oil, so lots of time-consuming work is required.
The argan nuts are then roasted to give culinary argan oil its toasted nutty flavor. Once roasted, the toasted seeds are crushed in a mortar with a pestle, and then ground into a thick paste by hand with a stone quern. The paste is crushed to produce the oil.
There is also a modern way to extract the argan oil by using a machine to grind and crush the toasted seeds to release the argan oil.
Goats love the argan fruit and find it so delicious that they will climb the prickly Argan trees to eat it.