The mythic and great poet of antiquity, Homer, called olive oil a "Golden Liquid" and the Olive the "Gold of the Ground," which constituted then, and still constitutes today, a basic and irreplaceable nutritional component of the Greek diet. Hence, the olive’s history in Morocco can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who first moved to the island of Sicily. They imported olive trees to the island and took some with them across onto the mainland. Eventually, as trade routes developed, the olive was brought west. Since then, Morocco has become the second largest producer of table olives and the sixth of olive oil. In fact, centuries-old olive press’s in the ancient Roman city of Volubilis - capital of the kingdom of Mauretania - are still at work as they did thousand of years ago. Currently, however, the epicentres of production are Marrakesh, Casablanca, Meknes and Fez. Marrakesh specializes in table olives, whilst Meknes and Fez produce more olive oil. In Morocco, olives are used as appetizers and served with herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and oregano whilst the crushed olives are used as bio-products for fuel and for making “Saboun El Baldi, " or traditional soap.
The argan tree is native to southwest of Morocco and the Tindouf region of Algeria, and from its kernels the locals extract a precious oil used in the global food and cosmetics industries. Known locally as" white gold," laboratory testing of argan has proven the seeds contain beneficial nutrients including fatty acids and vitamin E, making it ideal in the treatment of dry hair and skin. Hence why it was used by the Berber roaming the desert as medicine for centuries to cure skin conditions, rheumatism and heart disease. Despite the harsh climatic challenges, the argan tree is able to survive for as much as 250 years. Their resilience enable them to colonise the desert fringes where few other trees can grow, making them a vitally important bastion against desertification. But the growing popularity of the tree and its precious oil came at a cost. Through the 1970s and 1980s about 600 hectares per annum were lost. Trees were felled to make way for other crops, or cut down to be sold for wood carving. The irony, of course, is that the further the argan forest retreats, the more the desert creeps forward, rendering the land useless for crops and exposing the soil to wind erosion. In return, this resulted in a shortage in the production of authentic argon oil which led some scrupulous producers to dilute the pure oil with cheap cooking oil.