My passion for argan began in 2000 when I visited Morocco to study Moroccan herbal medicine having heard of to a renowned herbalist who had practiced his art for 45 years. He looked like a medieval wizard with his flowing white robes topped by a fez. We struck up a rapport immediately. As a Chinese herbalist it was fascinating to compare our two disciplines. This is where I was introduced to argan oil and here my passion for this unique product began.
He explained how herbalists prescribe it internally to protect the heart, liver and gall-bladder and topically to treat eczema, acne psoriasis and chicken pox. I soon learned that Berber women have used it for centuries to protect their skin from the sun and to keep their hair soft. I was amazed that I had never heard of this oil and realized that very little was known of it outside Morocco. I was enchanted and determined to find out more.
On my return home I visited the Centre of Economic Botany at the Botanical Gardens in Kew to research this magical tree and the properties of its oil. The botanists there suggested I import the oil to create a new market which would provide local employment and encourage conservation of this protected but endangered forest that produces the oil. At this point nothing had been written about argan oil in English. With their encouragement I started researching and documenting its properties. Analysis proved that argan oil truly lived up to its traditional uses. Several months later, with enough data and information gathered Wild Wood Groves first website was launched in 2001. Having heard of an International Fine Food market in London that had not been open for very long I made enquiries about taking a stall there. This seemed a good way to introduce argan by giving tasters to chefs, cookery writers and other foodies.
This was the start of eight years at Borough market, having first been approved by the selection committee. During this time by explaining the properties and benefits of argan oil awareness grew among the many visitors and tourists.
After a few problems with suppliers in Morocco I decided that the only way I could be sure of complete quality control was to set up production with full traceability from start to finish ethical trade being very important to me. The Centre was built in the heart of the argan region which stretches from Essaouira to Agadir. This has provided well paid work for local Berber women. I bought a state of the art cold-press having travelled to Germany to see it. It eventually arrived and we were ready to start producing argan oil from the stock of whole fruit in sacks that we had stored.
My journey has been interesting, both glorious and disheartening, with many mishaps along the way, but I wouldn't change it for anything. Others have started similar projects and the argan forest is now expanding and flourishing.
I use nothing but argan on my skin and eat the oil every day, it is truly amazing and I hope you will discover that too and love it as much as I do.