Livelihood with the scent of lavender

There is a legend saying that God gave useful herbs to make easier the life of Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Herbs included rosemary for keeping the spirit and lavender – to please the soul.

Where lavender is concerned, Bulgaria ranks first worldwide in lavender oil yield producing in excess of 200 tonnes per year. Following Southern Bulgaria where lavender has been grown traditionally, in the recent years hundreds of hectares with lavender have been sown in the northeastern plain of Dobrudzha famed as this country’s granary.

The aromatic plant has provided livelihood to thousands, including the four-member family of Yıldız Fazlı from the village of Hadzhidimitrovo in the southern Bulgarian region of Kazanlak, Stara Zagora district. They have been growing lavender since 2003.

We have 3 hectares with lavender and 1 hectare of rose plantations. Of them we mostly obtain cuttings from the lavender and shoots from the roses for planting. This year the weather conditions were poor, so our yield was smaller – only 86 kg of lavender oil. For the sake of comparison last year’s yield came to 182 kg. There was plenty of rain and fewer sunny days that prevented the plant from yielding more essential oil,”Yıldız Fazlı told Radio Bulgaria a few days after harvesting lavender.

Lavender fields are harvested when the weather is hot, dry and windless. This usually happens in July – then lavender is already overblown. When bees gathering nectar no longer stop at the blossoms, this means that the plant is ready for harvesting. The essential oil itself is stored in the plant’s root and in hot and clear weather, at 30C, the oil begins to climb along the stem. The hotter the weather, the more oil in the stem until harvesting.”

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Apart from lavender oil production, the family of Yıldız Fazlı is engaged in growing seedlings. Annually they produce 3 million roots obtained from 2 to 3-year plants. The family has clients from across Bulgaria. The same is valid for rose saplings too:

The year was good for the roses. We do not pick rose blossoms; we only grow roses in greenhouses to produce shoots,” Yıldız Fazlı explained.

Can lavender growing earn a living?

For a four-year family to earn a living with lavender it has to work at least 3 hectares of lavender,” Yıldızsaid.

In 2017 Bulgaria was the biggest exporter of lavender oil in the world. The leading consumer of this essential oil is France. Bulgarian lavender is quite successful on the markets in USA, Germany, Austria, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Dubai, among others. Statistics also suggest that in 2017 lavender fields exceeded 5000 hectares. According to farmers the income from a hectare of lavender fields ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 US dollars.

English Daniela Konstantinova

Photos: Şevkiye Çakır and Sevda Dükkancı

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