Native humans from Morocco also refered to as Berbers, developed a very close relationship with the Argan tree and its fruit dating back over 4,000 years ago. Before Argan oil was world renown, well before it had the highest trade value of any oil on the face of planet earth, and before processes were in place to extract oil from the fruit efficiently; the Berbers learned an a more natural way to process Argan fruit into oil. This is where humans symbiotic relationship with goats comes into play. Goats are natural herbivores which means they will only eat plant life. Morocco is a very hot and dry so in many areas the land has been desertified. The Argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) is a native tree to Morocco, and when goats get hungry in the desert they certainly wouldn’t discriminate against the tender growth on an Argan tree. In fact the goats in Morocco are famous for climbing all the way up to the top of an Argan tree in quest for any and all edible plant growth.
Argan trees produce a small fruit but inside the fruit is an extremely hard nut. Inside that nut is one but often times two or three oil rich seeds. As you can see in the graphic below the Argan fruit looks very similar to date.
The nut inside an Argan fruit is ridiculously hard and tough to crack. This is precisely where the Goats of the Moroccan desert came into action and have helped to popularize an oil. Without the goats word may not have spread around the world. After the goats eat the Argan fruit, and eliminated their feces the hard nut to crack becomes very soft. Ancient entrepreneurial minded Moroccans would actually peruse the contents of goat excrements to find the softened Argan nuts.
In the past, Argan oil was only recognized by the natives as a potent skin care remedy and as an all-around cooking staple. Today Argan oil’s benefits are known the world over, so it was only natural that big manufacturing companies have taken an interest in this wonder oil and have begun using it to produce skin, hair and nail care products. Luckily there are cooperatives that employ women in Morocco which infuses money into the local women’s pockets and at the same time enforces that these big manufacturing companies do not outsource the labor and undermine the citizens of Morocco.
The nuts are comprised of a hard shell layer that is difficult to crack. But when the goats eat them, they are naturally digested in their stomach. That leaves the Argan kernel inside the nut intact. It cannot be digested so the goats will then excrete the kernel.
This is a video of a seasoned Argan nut cracker who has been working in a Argan oil cooperative for years.
In contrast below is a video of two tourists visiting an Argan oil cooperative. Their movements are certainly not as smooth as a seasoned Argan nut cracker.
Cracking these nuts is no easy task. Harvesting these nuts from trees as tall as ten meters isn’t light work either. Starting four thousand years ago people utilized goats to harvest the Argan kernels. It is a much easier process compared to cracking the hard shell of the Argan nut. However, with families showing an interest in harvesting Argan nut, they have amassed goats to do the harvesting for them. This has resulted in damages to the Argan forest as the animals trample all over the trees. It’s an interesting sight to see but it doesn’t do the forest a favor.
The harvesting is mostly done by hand, these days, to avoid the damages done to the Argan trees. It has helped many local Berbers or Moroccan women find a livelihood and a source of income to support their families. Huge manufacturing companies have also started putting together organizations for women who hand-press Argan oil as this is clearly still the most effective way to get this precious oil. After all, not all people are keen on using a beauty product that came from someone else’s excrement.