The High Atlas Mountains rich biodiversity produces endemic, endangered and economically important plant species for food and medicine. Strengthening traditional practices to conserve the landscape whilst ensuring communities have sustainable livelihoods is central to the preservation of the ecosystem and the people who’ve lived there for centuries.

Aïcha Ghafari

Brahim Wajay

Hamid Ait Baskad

Jamal Fahmi

Mohamed Ait Boujamaa

Aïcha Ghafari, Couscous Producer from Imegdal

Aïcha is a member of the women’s cooperative in Timgharine Imegdal. The main activity of the cooperative revolves around the preparation of cakes, traditional bread and couscous with herbs such as thyme and rosemary. The women prepare these on the occasion of festivities, local festivals but they also prepare these products on demand. The cooperative produces about 100kg of different types of couscous per year, which requires ten days of drying for each preparation. The quantities produced are sold in local markets, as well as in Marrakech through a social enterprise called EthnoBotanica.

“Couscous is an important dish for Moroccan families and cuisine. My favourite is Khoumassi couscous made with a mixture of five different cereals. I love couscous because there are so many different types, flavours and different ways to prepare it.”

Photo credits for all: © Inanc Tekguc, Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Thaïs Martin and Mohamed Ouknin.

Brahim Wajay

Brahim lives in a small village near Aït M’hamed in the High Atlas, where he has been cultivating barley for years. During the harvest season, Which is usually around May, he joins efforts with other farmers following an old Amazigh tradition called ‘Tiwizi‘, during which labour-intensive activities such as manual harvesting are carried out in a group.

Brahim and the other local farmers of Aït M’hamed keep an ancestral know-how of barley cultivation. They play a vital role in the conservation of local barley varieties.

Photo credits for all: © Inanc Tekguc, Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Thaïs Martin and Mohamed Ouknin.

Hamid Ait Baskad, Wild Thyme &  Lavender Producer from High Atlas

Hamid lives in Igherm, a remote village in the High Atlas Mountains. Every day after his morning prayers he eats a traditional breakfast of bread with olive oil, accompanied with askeef (barley soup), and washes it down with Moroccan mint tea. After breakfast, he makes his way to the community nursery he helped build and now manages where he is cultivating Lavender and Moroccan Wild Thyme.

“These plants are an important source of income for communities in the High Atlas. Thyme is used to prepare coffees and teas, you can add it to yoghurt or mix it with butter or add it to bread dough for a lovely flavour.”

Photo credits for all: © Inanc Tekguc, Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Thaïs Martin and Mohamed Ouknin.

Jamal Fahmi, Walnut & Almond Producer from Azilal

Since his childhood Jamal has tended the fruit trees on his family’s land. He harvests c.200kg of walnuts and 150kg of almonds without hull, that are sold to his clients in the local small markets and in the weekly big market or “souk” of Azilal.

Photo credits for all: © Inanc Tekguc, Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Thaïs Martin and Mohamed Ouknin.

“Walnuts and almonds are quality products that I love and that deserve to be valued.”

Mohamed Ait Boujamaa, Thyme & Almond Producer from Tiniskt

Mohamed was born and raised in the village of Tiniskt, 75km south from Marrakech. He spends most of his days outside in the mountains, where he harvests thyme at the end of May and almonds in August.

Photo credits for all: © Inanc Tekguc, Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Thaïs Martin and Mohamed Ouknin.

“What I love about producing thyme and almonds is that they are used in so many different ways. It’s a source of food for humans but also animals.”

Almonds are often used to prepare pastries or amalou, which is a thick brown paste similar to peanut butter based on grinded roasted almonds mixed with honey and argan oil. Women also use almonds to prepare “Sellou” which is a very nutritious mixture of roasted flour mixed with butter, honey, almonds, sesame, and other nuts and spices. It’s commonly prepared during the fasting month of Ramadan as well as for pregnant women.

Almonds

Almonds (Prunus dulcis) are a popular product in Moroccan cuisine.  In the High Atlas, almonds are harvested between June and September. Moroccan almonds grow best in a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. 

In cooking, the almond can be used in different forms – whole, hulled or sliced, and it can be prepared in different ways – plain, roasted or salted. New trends are to consume it as a snack or as an almond-based drink (almond milk).

Barley

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is among the crops most cultivated by farmers in the mountainous area of High Atlas. The straw is also used to feed donkeys, chickens and sheep. Local farmers have an ancestral local know-how in terms of driving technique and use of barley. The harvest usually starts in mid-May and is done manually using a sickle. Once the barley is harvested and dried, it is transported to anrar, a place for threshing – a practice to separate the grain or seeds from hay in cereals and or other crops. Threshing is done either in a traditional way using donkeys or mechanically.

Couscous

Couscous is emblematic of the Maghreb countries cultural identity. Couscous is part of everyday dishes but is also eaten on special occasions. The preparation and choice of ingredients depends on the climate and the region but also the wealth of the family.

Walnuts

In Morocco, walnut cultivation (Juglans regia), covers an area about 7600ha and produces around 7000t of shelled walnuts. Existing plantations are in mountains valleys with altitudes between 1200m and 1800m, such as Azilal, Amezmiz, Ourika, Imegdal, Rif, Midelt and Rich. Walnut trees are planted mainly along watercourses and at the edge of plots, in islets and/or isolated trees. They’re cultivated for the production of nuts, noble wood but also for the shade they provides during the summer.

Wild Thyme

Wild thyme (Thymus saturejoides) is an endangered and endemic medicinal plant of Morocco and Algeria that is used as a culinary herb. In the High Atlas, especially in Imegdal, wild thyme is considered among the most important aromatic and medicinal plants and generates a considerable income for the local population.

Found in the Goundaffa Forest, wild thyme’s pink flowers are usually harvested from May to July. In the High Atlas, wild thyme is also used to preserve butter and is an essential herb in Moroccan cuisine.

Recipes to try

Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant Salad)

Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant Salad)

Prep time - 5 mins |

Cook time - 12 mins |

Serves - 4 |

See the recipe
Almond Ghoriba Cookies

Almond Ghoriba Cookies

Prep time - 1.5 hrs |

Cook time - 15 mins |

Serves - 18 |

See the recipe
Young Fig Tagine – Takourayte

Young Fig Tagine – Takourayte

Prep time - 15 mins |

Cook time - 2 hrs |

Serves - 4 |

See the recipe
High Atlas Bread – Toumirte

High Atlas Bread – Toumirte

Prep time - 1 hr |

Cook time - 10 mins |

Serves - 3 |

See the recipe
Barley Flour Couscous with Eggs (Toumiyte N’tasksoute)

Barley Flour Couscous with Eggs (Toumiyte N’tasksoute)

Prep time - 40 mins |

Cook time - 40 mins |

Serves - 4

See the recipe

What You Put on Your Plate Can Change the World

Share A Dish Night
25-27 June 2020

#MedFoodHeroes

Let’s celebrate sustainable food

rootedveryday.org/medfoodheroes

What You Put on Your Plate Can Change the World

Share A Dish Night
25-27 June 2020

#MedFoodHeroes

Let’s celebrate sustainable food

rootedveryday.org/medfoodheroes