Traditional extraction of Argan oil is a tough, labor-intensive process which consist of the following steps:
- Harvesting and collecting Argan fruits
- Drying the fruits in sun for some weeks
- Obtaining Argan nuts by removing the pulp from the fruits
- Obtaining Argan seeds by crushing the nuts
- Extracting Argan oil manually
Harvesting Argan fruit
The Argan forests are not easily accessible. Trucks and other vehicles do not reach all the places such as deep valleys. Moreover, the locals that harvest Argan fruits are not rich enough to possess expensive means of transport. This makes the harvesting almost a manual process. The locals walk long distances in heat to harvest the fruit during the hottest season in Morocco, between June and August. Some of the locals have donkeys and mules that carry the burden of the harvested fruits but many poor locals carry the load themselves. This is a very exhausting task. Women are involved more in production of the oil than men. However, in the poor families that need to carry the load themselves, some men help during the harvesting process. Only fruits that grow ripe and fall from trees are collected. Hand-picking the fruits or shaking the Argan tree to make them fall is not practiced because such fruits are prone to rotting.
Drying Argan fruits
Once the gathering of Argan fruits is completed, the fruits are brought to the village. Argan fruits are green with soft pulp when they are gathered. The fruits are sun-dried for several weeks. This changes the color of the pulp from green to brown and they become dry so that they can be easily removed to get Argan nuts.
Crushing nuts to get seeds
Argan nuts have very hard shell, almost sixteen times harder than Hazelnuts. Their shape is oval and size is small. People tried to crush Argan nuts using machines but this failed miserably because the Argan Kernels (seeds) are fragile. They got damaged and the hard pieces of shell entered the flesh of seeds. Thus, to obtain the best Argan oil, it became necessary to crush the nuts manually. This is a time-consuming process. The Argan nuts are cracked and their shell is removed by hand one by one! This is done by the local Berber women that use stones to crush the hard shells. After crushing, the valuable Argan seeds are obtained. Each nut contains only 2-3 seeds.
Traditional Extraction of Argan oil
After collecting a good amount of seeds, they are ready to be pressed to get the ‘Liquid gold’. The Berber women grind the seeds into a brown paste using stone hand mill. Then the paste is hand-kneaded for several days and mixed with warm water to bring the oil to the surface from where it is filtered. This entire process is how people are able to enjoy the countless benefits of argan oil.
Though the traditional method of extracting the Argan oil is a pure hard work, it is superior to industrial extraction in many ways. In the traditional method, only the best fruits are collected and lots of care is taken throughout the process by the same people who are engaged in every step of its production. The local Berber women have been doing this for centuries and the quality of oil they produce is unmatched