Tuesday, March 21, 2006

1400 hectares of argan trees to be planted.

Great news for lovers of Moroccan Argan oil! Some 1400 hectares of argan tree land are to be replanted with the endemic tree in the south-western region of Souss-Massa-Draa in 2006 to fight desertification, Regional Director of the Water and Forests Department, Abdelkrim Azenfar said on Tuesday.

Out of the 1400 ha, the High Commissioner of Water and Forests has pledged to fund the planting of 1050 ha, while the remaining are to be financed in partnership by other local institutions and Ngos, Azenfar said at an information meeting on forest development and desertification held by the Regional Direction of Water and Forests of Agadir, south-west Morocco.

In 2005, Azebfar said some 800 ha were replanted with argan trees, that grow exclusively in the south-west region of Souss (researchers have however found specimens in the north-east region of Morocco, while experiment to grow the tree in the north have been conducted in the Khemisset region, 60 km east of Rabat).

The tree almond-like nuts are processed into argan oil. The oil is edible, mingled to ground almonds and honey we obtain a peanut butter-like paste. The tree nuts and leaves are feed for goats, mainly. The tree also provides firewood for local populations.

The Regional Direction also conducted a study to assess the impact of planting other plants and trees in the argan land.

Natural forests in the Souss expand over 1,200,000 ha, which is a 17% forestation at the regional level and 13% at the national level. The argan tree is two thirds of the forests in the Souss.

Azenfar deplored the degradation of the forests in Souss because of man-made factors, such as grazing, collecting firewood, forest clearing for other farming, and others like desertification.

The Moroccans have been using for centuries the Argan oil as food as well as a beauty product, notably as an ointment for skin and hair. The oil is relatively rich in vitamin E and is antioxidant that can limit the appearance of wrinkles.

The Soussis and the Moroccans at large use it to remedy arthritis and for some decades it has been used to lower cholesterol rate and hence prevent heart diseases.

The Argan tree (argania spinosa) grows in a harsh environment, surviving heat, drought and poor soil. It is little known outside Morocco, and many Moroccans themselves have never heard of it because it grows only in the south-west of the country - roughly between Essaouira and Agadir, in an area covering 700,000-800,000 hectares.

But within the area where the Argan grows there are about 21 million trees, which play a vital role in the food chain and the environment, though their numbers are declining. The tree, which is thorny and can reach heights of 8-10 metres, probably originated in Argana, a village north-east of Agadir (off Route 40). It lives longer than the olive and requires no cultivation.

The production of Argan oil, which is still mostly done by traditional methods, is a lengthy process. Each nut has to be cracked open to remove the kernels, and it is said that producing one litre of oil takes 20 hours of work.

Argan tree with goats

The story of argan oil is an amazing mix of history, biology, conservation and haute-cuisine.

For hundreds of years the Berbers in the South Western part of Morocco in an area covering 700,000-800,000 hectares have let their goats climb the argan trees (Argania spinosa). These spiny evergreens produce a slightly larger than olive-sized fruit, the pits of which pass right through the goat’s digestive system and are collected by the Berbers. The pits are then split open and the three small kernels are ground to produce the aromatic oil.
The argan tree is a real survivor that can be traced back as far as the Tertiary Period 1.5 million years ago. Part of its success is due to its ability to remain virtually dormant and fruitless during years of drought. Yet despite its tenacious qualities it is under threat as never before. Local demand for wood, overgrazing by goats and the fact that it is never commercially propagated has lead to a huge decline in tree numbers. Some experts say that 60% of all trees have vanished in the last half century.

The Process

The production of this oil is a demanding and laborious process which was until recently done completely by hand. The manual method consists in first collecting the pit of the fruit from among the goat droppings. The pit's hard shell is then cracked to collect the kernels. These are roasted by mild heating and once cooled, ground in a stone rotary quern. Later the kernels are hand-mixed with a small amount of water to form a dough. It is from this dough that the oil can be extracted by hand.

Recently mechanical presses have been introduced to extract argan oil. This process reduces considerably the time needed to extract 1 litre of oil. Once the kernels are roasted, the mechanical press takes care of the grinding and extraction. More oil is extracted and since no water is added to press the dough, the oil can be stocked longer.The most consuming time of the process, cracking the nuts, is still done by hand.

And here is an argan oil recipe



Anonymous said...

hello man
thx for this interesting article .THE ARGAN tree is also the symbol of soussi and moroccan people and amazigh people in general it is modest patient and has torn it also gives fruit from which argan oil is extracted. argan tree should be in the flag of morocco.

Unknown said...

For more information about Argan tree and Argan oil visit: