Argan trees are not especially attractive. Twisted, thorny and gnarled, these scrubby trees thrive in near-desert conditions of the Souss and Haha Valleys in southwestern Morocco. Since ancient times they have endured the harsh climate there, the only area in the world where they grow.
The tree likely originated in Argana, a Berber village on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, from which it takes its name. An area of roughly 175 square miles between Essaouira and Guelmim supports 21 million of these trees that are an important economic and environmental resource for the region. The number of trees is now declining so preservation efforts are underway to protect this unique, endangered resource.
Typically measuring 15 – 20 feet in height, argan trees are robust and require no cultivation. They are long-lived, often growing for 150-200 years, and able to survive drought due to their deep root system. Argan trees have been known since the time of the Phoenicians in 600 B.C.
The tree produces fruit that is green and fleshy, much like olives, but larger and rounder. Inside the fruit there is a nut with an extremely hard shell that, in turn, contains one to three almond-shaped kernels.
Argan nuts are gathered and cracked open to extract the kernels that are then pressed for their precious oil. Production done by women using traditional hand-pressing methods requires 20 hours to produce one liter of oil. Recently, mechanized methods have been introduced to facilitate the oil’s extraction and extend its shelf life. In either case, a large quantity of nuts is required to yield even a small amount of “liquid gold.” (source:sheerargan.com)