We drove a short distance south of the city to a grove of argan trees and stopped to see goats . . . goats in trees! The adorable goats of this region are very skilled climbers having adapted to climbing the thorny, gnarled branches with cloven feet, which aid their balance. Two shepherds manned the herd of goats and a few sheep.
We watched as the goats clambered up one tree after another, spreading out through the branches, some standing on hind legs to reach the lower branches eating the plum-like fruit and discarding the hard nuts in the center on the ground. The nuts are then gathered and pressed to make the argan oil used in cooking and cosmetics. We followed the goats for quite a while it was such great entertainment as they balanced on limbs barely big enough to hold them trying to reach each tasty morsel; a few fell out of the trees but were back in the branches without hesitation, this must be really good eating. There were a couple of kids that had to be hand-fed, they had not yet developed their climbing skills and George made fast friends with one of these adorable little bundles of fur.
Leaving the goats to their “grazing” we visited a nearby local women’s’ cooperative that specializes in Argan production to learn how this useful oil is made, trying our hands at hulling, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The fruits are placed on a rounded stone and then hit with another stone to release the kernel from the hull, trying not to smash your fingers in the process. Then the kernels are ground before pressing. This is a labor-intensive process but produces some of the finest quality oil and very expensive oil. The shampoo I use at home is obviously done through a much more efficient mechanized process and is not of high quality; I have not yet seen the cooking oil at home but we did sample some and it has a wonderful nutty flavor – I will seek it out.