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Q: Hey, I saw something really crazy while on vacation in Morocco recently. Maybe you won’t believe this, but I swear I saw goats up in the trees, actually perched among the limbs. Tree-climbing goats? What’s up with that?

A: You did, indeed, see goats in the argan trees of southwest Morocco. The trees often have a thick, twisted trunk that the animals are able to climb. But the goats don’t just scramble up the tree for the fun of it — they’re after the olivelike fruit that grows among its leaves.

Now here is where truth meets fiction. Truth is that the goats are able to digest the soft outer layer of the fruit, but the hard, nutty center is a different story. It passes through the goat’s digestive system and ends up being harvested by farmers who pick through the animals’ dung in search of the nut. From there, the nuts are used to make cooking oil, soap and cosmetics.

But savvy Moroccan vendors know the idea of slathering a cream on one’s face that was made from a nut that passed through a goat’s bowels isn’t an appealing prospect to squeamish visitors to their country, so they have their own tourist-friendly version: Yes, the goats do climb the trees to get at the argan’s fruit. They eat the fleshy part of the fruit, but, instead of munching down the whole thing, the critters simply spit out the hard center, making it easy for farmers, who then collected the nuts from under the trees. A much more palatable version of the process, one has to admit.

Despite the nut’s association with goat dung, the cream made from the nut is popular and recommended not only by the vendors vying for tourists’ money, but also by some local women. No matter how the nut is harvested, they swear there is nothing better than argan oil for dry skin.

Got a question about goings-on Europe? E-mail Stripes at: news@estripes.osd.mil

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