By DAVID FUCHS
RABAT, Morocco — At Le Gout du Fruit, a juice shop in downtown Rabat, students and pedestrians cluster around standing height, stainless-steel tables and chat above the constant whir of blenders and blaring traffic outside.
Among the crowd is Moe Mohammed, a wiry 26-year-old from southern Morocco, who is wolfing down a fruit salad covered with a creamy, green mixture known as “jus d’avocat.” He pauses, momentarily, to extol the topping’s rumored health benefits.
“In Morocco, they say that, whoever is married needs a lot of avocado juice,” he said. “They say it gives you more power to be in bed.”
While largely unheard of outside of Morocco, “avocado juice” — or “jus d’avocat” as it is more commonly advertised — is a staple item on the menus of juice shacks and cafés across the country. Though many Moroccans consume the beverage simply for its flavor or nutritional benefits, some say the drink is rumored to enhance sexual performance.
The “juice,” which is closer to a smoothie in texture, is made by blending avocados with milk and adding sugar to taste. The result is a creamy, subtly sweet beverage or topping that is both refreshing and filling, said Mr. Mohamed.
Additional topping options — like raisins, dates, ginger and honey — are available for people who prefer more variety, said Badrdine Boulaid, a 35-year-old program coordinator and language teacher at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning in Rabat. Although he said he had often heard of the drink’s perception as an aphrodisiac, Mr. Boulaid said that he could not speak to the medical grounding of such beliefs.
Others, however, like Dr. Mohammed Hassar, Professor Emeritus at the Rabat School of Medicine and Pharmacology, can.
From a medical perspective, there is solid evidence for the drink’s stimulating reputation, said Dr. Hassar whose long career in public health includes nearly a decade as the director of the Institut Pasteur du Maroc and service on several World Health Organization committees.
Nutritionally, the fruit (yes, it’s technically a fruit) is rich in folic acid, which helps metabolize protein, B6 and potassium. These substances are known to increase the production of testosterone and assist with the regulation of the thyroid gland — processes that contribute to libido, mood and sexual function, Dr. Hassar said.
High levels of vitamin E and non-saturated fats also make avocados good for the hair, skin, nails and circulatory system, he said, adding that “anything that keeps the heart strong helps keep blood flowing to all the right places.”
Although the avocado has generated buzz in Morocco, it’s important to note that the fruit is not one of the country’s traditional crops. A 1965 study by the California Avocado Society found that only 50 mature trees existed in the country prior to 1950.
30 years ago, however, that began to change.
According to data collected by FAOSTAT, the food and agriculture statistics branch of the United Nations, avocado production in Morocco remained at roughly 1,000 metric tones per year until 1985 when it began climbing to its most recent peak of 16,890 metric tones in 2007.
Even with recent increases, avocados still constitute less than 1 percent of Morocco’s total fruit exports — a figure dwarfed by the 83 percent made up by citrus, as reported on the government’s export website.
On a global scale, the country’s production pales in comparison to that of top producers like Mexico whose yield in 2015 was estimated at roughly 1.6 million metric tones by the USDA.
Although avocado production is not a significant component of the national agricultural economy, it matters a great deal to people like Ahmed Ruddad, a 36-year-old fruit vendor and Rabat native who sells 150 kilos of avocados per day in the city’s old medina.
The bulk of Morocco’s avocados are grown just 20 kilometers outside Rabat between mid-October and April, he said, adding that avocados are imported from Spain and Peru during the off-season to make the fruit available year-round. “The difference is that Moroccan avocados have a better taste, but Spanish avocados last longer than Moroccan ones.”
Despite the fruit’s rising popularity, some members of the older generation like Hassan Bachara, a 61-year-old from southern Moroccan, remain skeptical.
“They say it’s got lots of things, vitamins, and so and so. They say it gives you strength in bed for sex, but no, I don’t believe in that. Not at all,” he said. “Avocado juice is the same as any other juice.”