Farm to face, the current trend by which food-grade ingredients find their way into the cosmetics market is well understood. But Argan oil has turned the tables and made the jump over to super ingredient that top chefs around the world are looking for. To begin with, cosmetic Argan oil has been used for years in the beauty rituals of Moroccan women as a natural and effective way of improving the appearance of both the skin and the hair. But unlike cosmetic argan oil, the fluid that’s making its way into famous kitchens comes from kernels that are roasted prior to being pressed, resulting in an earthy and slightly smokey flavor. Interestingly, the nuts were originally harvested from the castings of the goats that climbed the short and bushy argan tree to gain access to their meals. As I understand it the production of argan oil is extremely expensive, making it one of the worlds costliest edible oils. Sold by the liter, it can run up to $130 a bottle, while other high-quality oil goes for around $40, meaning it won’t be used for daily cooking but is a great additive in a tossed salad or to increase the flavor of your favorite entre of fish or chicken. It’s worth noting that argan has been credited with assisting in controlling cholesterol, aiding digestion and relieving symptoms of arthritis. Incredibly, sales of all varieties (cosmetic, medical and culinary) are expected to cross the $1 billion mark by 2025. With sales of the edible oil totaling only $300,000 in 2017, the upside appears to be huge. From what I understand, the argan tree grows to between 20 and 30 feet tall and will live up to 200 years, some have lived for over 450 years. They are thorny in nature and somewhat remind me of a really rough or think hedge tree. Once they flower though they look much more pleasant. They actually produce a fruit looking nut that is 1.0 to 1.5 inches long and about 1.0 inch around. It has a thick, bitter peel surrounding a sweet-smelling but unpleasantly flavored layer of pulpy pericarp. This surrounds the very hard nut, which contains one or occasionally two or three small, oil-rich seeds. The fruit takes over a year to mature, then ripening in June to July of the following year. Locals say the argan trees are a major source of forage for sheep, goats, camels and cattle. Fruits and leaves are readily consumed by livestock. Bees also like to nest in argan trees, making them sites for wild honey harvesting. I’ve read the tree may not come into full production until it is 40-60 years old. Meaning it would be a valuable gift to the next generation. I’m actually thinking about planting a few organ trees on a couple of farms I have out West, I’m doing some checking on specifics. I’m told the trees can cope with low rainfall and only needs 4 to 8 inches to thrive. It also has the ability to be dormant in drier times and will regenerate when the rains come again. The wood of the tree is also excellent and virtually impervious to insect attack. Botanical researchers I know here at home say the tree is winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11. Best grown in dry to medium moisture, well-drained, sandy soils in full sun. Withstands drought, heat, and somewhat poor chalky soils. If you can’t grow them, I imagine this would make a great new gift idea for the chef in your life! (Source: Wiki; MOBotanicalGarden; Bloomberg)
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