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Interview: Culinary Argan Oil with Victoria Gaynor

Victoria Akkari

Victoria Gaynor is sourcing some of the highest quality culinary argan oil on the market.  She works directly with a women-run cooperative in Morocco.  In that respect, her oil is not only delicious and nutrient-rich, it is also source of female empowerment.  That's a business I'd like to get behind.

How did you discover the culinary benefits of Argan Oil?

I discovered argan oil on my first trip to Morocco a few years ago, in fact, I had never heard of it before! I began researching this amazing oil and had an opportunity to ask many questions. One of the first people I purchased oil from was studying chemistry.

Can you provide any traditional recipes using the argan oil?

Yes, there is a delicious traditional recipe called amlou! Two of the main ingredients are edible argan oil and honey, its simple, delicious and really healthy. 

Are there proven healing qualities of edible Argan Oil?

Argan oil  was used traditionally in Morocco for medicinal purposes. It is anti-inflammation, assists in regulating glucose levels, is high in unsaturated fatty acids, and has twice the dosage of vitamin E as olive oil. It is a powerful anti-oxidant. Consuming argan oil also helps improve the elasticity of the skin and research is being done in the field of prostate cancer because argan oil is believed to have anti-carcinogenic effects due to the combination of two rare sterols it contains.

How is the Argan Oil Processed?

For the most part argan oil is still processed using ancient traditional methods. It was discovered by the North African Berber tribe and the skill of hand-crafting oil has been passed down for generations. The process of extraction is very labor intensive. Argan fruit is collected and dried in the sun. The dried fruit pulp is removed to reveal an extremely hard shell. These shells contain 2-3 argan kernels inside and must be hand-cracked using a rock. To give argan oil its delicious flavor, the kernels are lightly roasted. The leftovers from the process are recycled and re-used. The dried argan fruit becomes a nutritious animal fodder and the shells are often ground and used in cosmetics or kept whole and used as a type of coal.

Can you elaborate on your relationship with the women cooperative and how Argan Oil production is empowering women?

Argan oil is produced in a semi-desert, rural area with a high illiteracy rate and not many opportunities for women. The freedom of working and earning money is life-changing. Not only can your immediate life improve but women start thinking about how to make the lives of their children’s future better by keeping them in school. One of the ladies in our cooperative has a daughter that wants to become a doctor. Empowerment gives you the ability to dream!

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