Organic Argan Oil, Sustainably Sourced from Morocco

Maybe you’ve noticed lots of press lately about argan oil. If you’ve not discovered it yet, here’s an introduction.

Argan oil contains high levels of skin rejuvenating essential fatty acids and is great for moisturizing and nourishing the skin. Argan is sustainably sourced from the nuts of a native desert tree in Morocco and is valued for the protection it offers from the dry desert atmosphere of North Africa.

Frontier’s aromatherapy brand Aura Cacia® is proud to be sourcing their quality organic argan oil from women’s cooperatives in Morocco. Through their purchasing efforts they are able to make an impact in the lives of these women and their families.

The Atlas mountain range, home of the mountain of Toubkal, is so populated with argan trees that it is commonly referred to as “Argana.” Aura Cacia® team members Tim Blakley, Jennifer Ferring and Jane Merten traveled to this region in May 2011 to meet some of the producers of their organic argan oil.

Take a look:

On this trip, they met Fatima, the leader and co-founder of one particular co-op. She lost her husband years ago, leaving her with two young sons and significant debt. She came across a woman named H’Maidouch trying to sell her argan oil in the market. Fatima bought the oil from H’Maidouch so that she could use it to exchange for kitchen staples such as flour and bread. This experience gave Fatima the idea to start the co-op. With some help from government grants the two women were able to open Afoulki-Amskroud Cooperative in 2004.

Here are some quick facts about the Afoulki-Amskroud Cooperative.

  • The cooperative produces around 10 tons of argan oil each year.
  • Their yield is around 1 kg of argan oil from 2.5 kg of seeds.
  • The cooperative employs 80 women, and each of them produce around 3 kg of argan seeds each day. Many choose to work part-time. The women share in the profits based on the amounts they produce.
  • Afoulki-Amskroud is one of 11 women’s co-ops in the “Argana” area, and one of the 600 across all of Morocco.

More on Aura Cacia’s organic Moroccan argan oil.

Do you use argan oil? Tell us how.

Moroccan Food

A team from Aura Cacia, our essential oil brand, recently traveled to Morocco on a sourcing trip. We always like to hear about the cuisines encountered on these trips. A few notes they shared with us about the food: Tagines were often used to cook the food, no pork was ever served, fruit was served as dessert, argan oil was used in many dishes, and the photos don’t really show how large the dishes were!

Because of Morocco’s interaction with many other cultures and countries throughout history, today’s Moroccan cuisine is surprisingly diverse. In addition to imported spices, many ingredients are home grown, including saffron, olives, lemons, and mint. Common spices used daily include cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, pepper, paprika, ginger, coriander, sesame seeds and anise seeds.

We’re going to let the team’s photos do the rest of the talking.

Veggie and meat dish.

Salad in Morocco.

Main course served in Moroccan home.

Honeycomb appetizer, for dipping bread.

Fruit platter, served as dessert.

Cous cous veggie dish made with argan oil.

Chicken dish with almonds.

Here’s a recipe from our recipe files for creating your own Moroccan spice rub, using coriander, fennel, cardamom and cloves.

Moroccan Barbecue Spice Mix

Dry toasting whole spice seeds intensifies their flavor and fragrance. You can liberally rub this enticing spice mix over salmon, halibut, pork, chicken or beef before cooking, or add it to sautéed onions with chopped kale, collard greens, or cabbage, sea salt, and black pepper with a little bit of broth, then cover and simmer for a delicious side dish. Thanks go to Chef Bruce Sherrod of Berkeley, CA, for sharing this recipe.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
1/4 cup whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole shelled cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
Directions:

To toast seeds: Combine spice seeds in a dry, medium-size skillet over moderate heat. Stir until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Pour seeds into a shallow bowl to cool.

To grind: Finely powder the toasted spices in a spice-dedicated coffee grinder (not the same one you use for coffee) or mortar and pestle. Store in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to 6 months (use sooner if possible).

To use with fish or meat: Season steaks, chops, fish, beef or pork roast with coarsely ground black pepper and finely ground sea salt; roll the meat in a portion of spice mix and press firmly to coat all over. Allow the seasoned meat to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, or cover loosely with unbleached parchment paper and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before cooking.

Sear seasoned fish or meat in a heavy, oven-proof skillet with coconut oil, clarified butter or ghee (2 tablespoons per 1 1/2 to 2 pounds fish or meat) until hot but not smoking. Sear 1 to 2 minutes per side, then finish in a preheated 400°F oven.

To shell whole cardamom seeds, place 1 tablespoon of whole cardamom pods (they have a beige color) on a cutting board. Rock over them with a heavy-bottomed skillet or chef knife. Pull away and discard the shell fragments, then measure the black seeds. Repeat as needed. To skip this step, buy shelled cardamom seeds.

Let us know if you have experience with Moroccan foods, or any favorite recipes you’d like to share!