stories and histories

Argan Trees and other Vegetation
" There are a great many prickly trees, that produce a fruit as big as the olives that we get from Spain. In the local language, this fruit is called "argan". It is used to make an oil which has a very bad smell, yet is used for food and lighting." (Leo, 71)
    This unusual tree still stands in the Tafraout landscape; unusual both by its looks( argan leaves are rather coarse and prickly and the fruit does resemble an olive) and its inhabitants: goats feast on its fruit, climbing to its highest branches to reach the forbidden treasures. Yes, goats do climb; and yes they do fall... And the sight of so many long haired friends gathered in a tree strangely resembles an odd Christmas tree...
   Locals encourage this practice- and lead their goat herds to feed on these trees. While the goats ruminate the fruit's pits and digesting its rough skin, men are busy gathering the pit that the goats spit out. This pit is then used for the making of the argan oil (see Tafraout-people for a picture of the Argan press). This partnership between goat and man works to everyone's advantage- goats get a good meal, and men spare themselves the trouble of having to break through a very rough shell!
     The argan tree is not the only unusual vegetation in these lands. In the Spring, the Ammeln valley lights up with all the flowers of the Almond trees. And in late summer and early fall, one can watch busy women gather the fruit of a prickly cactus: the fig of Barbary But here again, it takes work to reach the promised fruit, and delicious taste.
Almond shells have to be broken, and fig needles have to be avoided. Were your hands to foolishly grab one of these tempting treats, you would soon feel the burns of hundreds of small needles nested in your fingers. The local remedy is ....a tomato. Cut it in half and use the flesh to soothe your burning hands!

almonds on a tree

breaking the almond shell

Fig-close up