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Friday, 11 December 2015

Writing – research – argan oil

When I was researching Morocco for my second novel in the ‘Avenging Cat’ series, Catacomb, I came across argan oil. I was aware of this anyway, as it has become a popular ingredient in shampoos, shower gels and skin creams.



The Argan (Argania Espinosa) is a tree native to Morocco and the tree can live up to 200 years. Morocco is the only place where this tree grows.

They call it "the giver of life". The tree is resistant to dry and arid conditions, actually tolerating temperatures ranging from 3-50 ° C.

The Argan grows in the arid and semi-arid South-west of Morocco. Twisted and prickly, it sends its roots deep into the earth in search of water.

The tree’s fruit is green, like a giant olive and tastes sweet but quite unpalatable. But it contains a treasure: a tough nut with small oil-rich seeds. The oil is very nutritous, and - even more important – it’s rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants.

The walnut shells are burned as fuel. The argan wood - known as "Moroccan ironwood" - is highly valued, and used for marquetry inlaid boxes. Nothing is wasted.


Argan oil production supports about two million people in the main argan oil-producing region, and much of the oil is made by a number of women's co-operatives. ‘Co-sponsored by the Social Development Agency with the support of the European Union, the Union des Cooperatives des Femmes de l’Arganeraie is the largest union of argan oil co-operatives in Morocco. Employment in the co-operatives provides women with an income, which many have used to fund education for themselves or their children. It has also provided them with a degree of autonomy in a traditionally male-dominated society and has helped many become more aware of their rights.’ – Wikipedia.


You may have seen photos of goats up trees, eating the firm argan fruit, which has a thick peel and pulp surrounding an almond-shaped nut. The fruit naturally passes through the goat’s digestive system whole and is eventually excreted. Traditionally, members of the indigenous Berber population gathered the nuts from the goat droppings, cracked them open with stones, then roasted and ground the seeds inside. The argan oil extracted from this process is high in essential fatty acids and vitamin E, and has long been used locally as a skin treatment and cooking ingredient, and for dips for bread and salad dressing. Now, the modern world has adopted the oil in diet and cosmetics.



Alas, the storyline in Catacomb never allowed me to introduce this fascinating subject, so this was one piece of research that got away.  The moral of this is – don’t use research information just because it’s interesting; only use it if you can make it relevant.


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