Close up of farmer traditionally toasts argan nuts to make pure oil, Taliouine and Taroudant Province, Southern Morocco
Layla toasts the argan nuts in preparation to produce argan oil at their farm home in Agouni n Fad village near Aoulouz, Taliouine & Taroudant Province, Souss Massa Draa region of Southern Morocco, 2016-05-24.
Families like the Kaltums still use the traditional grindstone method as the modern machinery used to press large quantities is unaffordable. The traditional method begins with shelling the nuts by hand. Having two outer shells, both layers must be removed by being squashed with a rock - a laborious process which requires much patience and consistent work pace in order to make a sufficient quantity of argan oil.
Once the nuts had been separated from their shells, Layla then took them out into the courtyard and toasted them in a ceramic dish over hot coals. For many people, this stage normally indicates whether or not the oil is being made for cosmetic or culinary use, as the nuts are usually only toasted for culinary argan oil, since toasting the nuts strengthens the smell. But both Layla and Hanane laughed at this suggestion.
“For me...” said Layla, “... there is only one type of argan oil. We always toast the nuts and use this same oil for cooking and for rubbing on our skin and hair. I see tourists buying cosmetic argan oil a lot and I have never understood why it has become so popular. I like the smell and feel of toasted argan oil on my skin. Cosmetic argan oil just isn’t the same.”
Argan can be stored away for long durations of time in a dry cool place once harvested, meaning the women can continue producing oil all year round. Families like the Kaltums only produce a small quantity per month and sell their argan oil to local co-operatives. Co-ops are common in Morocco, generally made up of communities of farmers from across a particular region who have united and agreed on fair prices to sell their produce for, such as argan oil.
This set up formed as a result of farmers often finding themselves at the hand of distributors in the main