Argan Oil Extraction Process - The Opuntia Company

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Argan Oil Extraction Process

Similarly to the oil extraction process of the prickly pear, extraction or argan oil is a long laborious job. Traditionally, this has been the work of Berber women in Morocco. It takes approximately thirty kilograms of fruit to yeild a litre of argan oil and around fifteen hours work.

When the fruits have fallen from the trees at the end of the summertime, the dry husks are taken out and the pulp removed and dried. At this point, the kernel is ready for pressing.
There are two techniques for extracting the oil, one for cooking and one for cosmetic purposes. For cooking, the kernels are lightly roasted before they are ground, while oil produced for cosmetic use is raw and cold pressed. Roasted kernels produce more oil than in the cold pressing method which explains the price difference between argan oil for cooking and argan oil produced for the beauty industry.

The traditional procedure used to extract the oil for cooking is by grinding the roasted nut like kernels to a paste with a little water in a shaped stone quern with a pestle. The amber coloured paste is then hand squeezed to obtain the oil. This technique of oil extraction allows for a shelf life of up to six months. Stored kernels can be kept for up to twenty years if uncracked. Another method of extraction known as dry pressing will allow the oil to be used for up to a eighteen months.

Goats love the argan fruit and can be seen in the southern areas of Morocco climbing the trees to get the fruit. In the past, the undigested kernels from the goats waste were collected by the Berber people, cleaned and cracked open for pressing. These days, forest wardens keep goats out of the argan tree forests until after the fruits have been gathered. 

Thankfully, new developments in technology have cut down the time it takes to extract argan oil from the kernels with the establishment of  women's co-operatives that often use machines to extract the nuts and obtain the oil. For cooking, the kernel is then roasted, ground and rinsed, a process that separates the oil from the water. The Berber people of Morocco are still managing the production of argan oil with the help of technology to speed up the process to satisfy the demand of the modern world. These days, the presentation of women sat on the floor, bowls in front of them, manually cracking open nuts, and the grinding process is merely a show for tourists.

The set up of women's co-operatives in Morocco has had a positive impact in local communities, creating employment for women and helping them to gain financial independence. 

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