By Samir Meqboul
Taroudant – Argania spinosa, or Argenn tree, from the Sapotaceae family of trees, only grows in Morocco. The Argan tree can live from 150 to 200 years. For centuries traditional cosmetic products produced from Argania spinosa have been a well kept secret known only to Berber women in Morocco. Argan oil is believed to be one of the rarest oils in the world.
To produce Argan oil for cosmetic use, freshly harvested kernels from the fruit of the Argan tree are pressed and filtered through an organic cotton sieve, to extract the aromatic oil. The Argan oil is easily absorbed by the skin. This form of Argan oil is used for the treatment of dermatologic diseases such as acne. Argan oil extracted by this method is used in aromatherapy. In Europe, Argan oil has been used in the aromatherapy industry for quite some time, but for some reason it is not well known in the United States and is unavailable in retail stores.
Argan oil has almost twice as much vitamin E or a-tocopherol as olive oil and it is much richer in linoleic acids. Its anti-ageing properties, due to high levels of vitamin E and saponins (which soften the skin), are well documented. Tocopherols are very important to human health because of their anti-oxidants and free radical scavenger effects. In traditional Moroccan medicine, Argan oil is used for the care of the body and face to counteract the effects of age or weather.
Extracting this oil is a long and tedious process. The ripe fruit of the argan tree, similar to olives, are manually crushed to separate pulp and pits. The pits are broken into two and reveal an almond that once processed, milled and pressed extracts the oil.
This oil comes from the Argan tree. This oily tree only grows in the dry arid soil of Agadir and Essaouira in the southwestern Moroccan desert. This oil, known for millenia by the Berber tribes for its gastronomic and cosmetic properties, is produced by female-owned cooperatives.
Use in cooking:
The oil has a nutty flavor and is a wonderful addition to many dishes. It will refine the flavor of sweet potatoes (especially mashed), adds a new dimension to a salad of oranges and carrots, and goes beautifully as a finishing touch with fish or as a topping on a fresh goat cheese summer salad, or even to dip bread into.
Argan oil has been sought after for years by chefs,food enthusiasts and enlightened home cooks. It has a characteristic nutty flavor and enhances the taste and aroma of many dishes. It is truly a rare and exotic treat.
Argan Oil is used only for seasoning and never for cooking. Its nutty taste and exotic flavor enhances the taste and scents of: vegetables like sweet pepper, tomato, green, salad, courgettes, sweet potato; cooked dishes such as couscous and seafood (salmon, trout, shrimps, and lobster); spaghetti, rice with veggies, and other pasta dishes; dried vegetable dishes such as lentils, French beans or chickpeas; scrambled eggs and other egg dishes; Bread and crepes; and pastes such as almond paste (Amlou) and Zahtar paste.
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