I am aware that gathering wild plants for the production of colognes, even when not done on an industrial scale, could give rise to certain qualms. In any case, we had our doubts as well, as soon as we began to think of this project. Can it be done without damaging the ecosystem’s balance? Could it affect the development of the plants themselves? To what degree could it end up altering the landscape? For us it was very important to have the answers to these questions before we began.
Through Salvem l’Empordà / IAEDEN (Institució Altempordanesa per a l’Estudi i Defensa de la Natura) [Save Empordà / IAEDEN (Alt Emporda Institute for the Study and Defence of Nature)] we came into contact with Sandra Saura, an environmental biologist with close ties to the region through her collaborations with the natural parks Parc Natural de l’Albera, Parc Natural del Cap de Creus, and Parc Natural del Montgrí. She is also a medicinal herbalist and is highly respected in local circuits; she knows many remedies and applications first hand. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), Sandra is young and very pleasant, passionate and intrepid. The perfect collaborator for BRAVANARIZ.
Together we have worked on designing a protocol for sustainable gathering that might respond to the needs of each species. Because not everything is applicable to everything in the same way. In some cases, it is better to select individual plants and take them whole. In other cases, it is recommendable to prune the flowering tops. Some plants need to stay with a few flowers to ensure their preproduction and the survival of pollinating insects. The same system cannot be applied to a thicket on the plains and a holm-oak grove in the mountains.
Last spring (2016) we did a series of samplings in a set of zones that had previously been chosen for plant gathering. We spent hours under the sun, surrounded by intense, intoxicating aromas, with the soundtrack of an army of insects as we worked gathering. More than once we had to apologize to a bee for competing so unfairly with it. The truth is, however, they could have cared less about us.
The samples supplied us with a lot of information, on the density, quality and general state of the main species that BRAVANARIZ wants to use in its formulas: rosemary, thyme, rockrose and cistus, Spanish lavender, white pine, fennel, juniper and cypress.
Now we are not only convinced of the project’s viability, fully respecting environmental balance. We also know that it is possible, in some cases, to favour it, assisting certain species to develop better and blocking the invasive effects of others.
As Sandra will say, plants do not need us, and they never have. They are still there, and will be there long after our extinction. Imagining anything else is just another one of our blowhard ideas. But if we are going to benefit from the infinite properties and qualities of plants, we might as well do so with respect, and in a way that is the least bothersome possible.
For BRAVANARIZ this is a fundamental priority that we are not going to lose sight of. Quite beyond sampling and studying, we will continue to do controlled monitoring of the areas where we habitually gather, which will assist us in evaluating the effect of our actions and thus be able to react in consequence. In effect, the question is to preserve the landscape. Our landscape.
Sandra Saura’s company, www.cebcat-labalca.cat