Morocco, bright colours, carpets, spices and streets full of hustle and bustle come to mind. The weird and wonderful food and oils on offer can make walking around their range of famous markets a wonderful and exciting experience.
The western world takes many of its natural medicines and culinary influences from other countries and Morocco is no exception. It's a country that rely heavily on our business. The most recent export from this vibrant country has been Argan oil.
What is it? It's an oil that is sourced from the kernels of the argan tree. The trees are neatly placed within the beautiful and dry countryside of Morocco. The fruits of the tree are small and hard-shelled, similar to a nut. The hard shell covers some pulpy flesh and the flesh is home to kernels, kernels that are then used to extract the infamous oil.
Many farmers will break the hard shell, feed the flesh to their livestock and extract the much-needed nectar from the kernels. It is an incredibly hands on job as automatic processes have not proved as effective. In 1998 due to the high demand and as the trees cannot be produced the Argan forests have been declared a protected reserve by UNESCO.
Argan oil has two usages. In Morocco its traditionally used for food, often used to dip bread in at breakfast or to drizzle on couscous. Its extremely nutritious and is packed full of fatty acids, linoleic acid and Oleic acid, all of which have been proved to aid good heart health.
It will also be used to treat skin diseases and burns. In the west we traditionally use it for cosmetic purposes and it has the innate ability to soothe dry skin and nourish very dry hair. As it can be used to treat both, it has become very popular and common medicine in many cupboards.
Many women will use Argan oil for a host of cosmetic reasons. Due to its ability to treat issues with dryness it can be used on the body. It can soothe dry lips, dry feet or hard nails and it is an excellent soother for cuts, burns and even razor rash. Due to its safe versatility it makes a fab option for the entire family.
If it is required for cosmetic usage the kernels will not be roasted and the process is in essence easier, but when used in culinary the kernels will be roasted to enhance their flavour. Either way the process is timely and very hand crafted.
Argan oil is now easier to buy, health food shops are usually the first place many people will look too, but as with most things under huge demand there are lots of fake products on the market. A low quality oil will not give you the same benefits and the concentration of nutrients will be much lower. You usually get what you pay for.
A pure version will be more expensive, but is worth the extra to make sure you get all the benefits. Always look for 100% pure cold pressed oil and you can be sure you are getting every piece of goodness.
As with most oils, it is essential to keep alternative medicine bottles out of direct sunlight and its recommended to use your purchase within 6 months of opening. It may make sense to buy a smaller bottle. When it comes to using it, always carry out a small skin test, as it is a distant cousin of the nut family, it may cause an allergic reaction if you suffer with nut allergies.