Argan oil is referred to as the “liquid gold” of Morocco because it is so rare. The delicate trees it comes from only grow in a very specific microclimate of Morocco: the Sous Valley south and east of Essaouira. The rich cosmetic oil has recently attracted great attention in the beauty industry because it is non-comedogenic and high in antioxidants. Oil is found in the kernel of the argan nut, surrounded by a layer of soft flesh. Many women’s cooperatives have sprung up in the Sous Valley region to fulfill the high demand for the precious oil. These cooperatives encourage local women of the region to take part in every aspect of argan oil production and distribution.
To make argan oil for cosmetic use, harvesters wait until the fruits have fallen from the tree before they collect them, dry them out, remove the fleshy part, crack the kernels, and extract their oil. No part of the nut goes to waste; the soft pulp is used as animal feed and the shells are burned for fuel. If the kernels are roasted before being ground, a much darker, rich, nutty oil results. Culinary argan oil (which can help lower cholesterol and ease arthritis) is delicious in salad dressings, drizzled over grilled vegetables, and a must-have when preparing amlou.