Morocco // Agadir, the Souss and Anti-Atlas //

Argan trees

One of the stranger sights of the Souss and surrounding coastal region is goats browsing among the branches of spiny, knotted argan trees, a species similar to the olive that is found only in this region. Though some younger goatherds seem to have a sideline in charging tourists to take photographs, the actual object of the exercise is to let the goats eat the outer, fleshy part of the argan fruit. The hard, inner nut is then cracked open and the kernel crushed to extract the expensive oil.

Argan oil is sweet and rich, and is used in many Moroccan dishes and in salads, or for dunking bread. It is also used to make amalou, a delicious dip of honey and almond paste.

An expensive delicacy, argan oil is not easily extracted: while one olive tree provides around five litres of olive oil, it takes the nuts from thirty argan trees to make just one litre of argan oil. Plastic bottles of argan oil are occasionally sold at the roadside in the Oued Souss area, but are very often adulterated with cheaper oils. It is therefore better to buy argan oil or amalou from a trustworthy source such as the cooperative at Tioute, the honey shop in Agadir, Hôtel Tifrit in Paradise Valley, or specialist shops in Marrakesh or Essaouira. Argan oil is also sometimes sold in larger supermarkets.

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