Elvira Guelzow, our world traveling International Farms Manager, crosses oceans and continents each year to meet with our organic herb farmers and tour their processing facilities. Here are some stories and photos from her exciting trip last month to Hungary and Bulgaria!
This summer I had to exchange my expired passport for a brand new book, and took the occasion to initiate it with a trip abroad. The friendly Eugene airport security lady sent me off with these words, “You put this new passport to good use and go someplace great,” ...and I did! I went to Hungary and to Bulgaria to visit with Mountain Rose Herbs' medicinal herb farms and essential oil distillers.
Here is my report from the beautiful country – Hungary!
Hungary is located in Central Europe and is blessed with an ideal growing climate due to its special geographical location. The terrain ranges from flat to gently rolling hills, and is nestled in the Carpathian Basin, which provides shelter from extreme weather. The Danube and Tisza rivers divide the country into three different climate regions: Continental to the north, Atlantic to the west, and Mediterranean to the south. Spring typically provides ample rainfall in good years, summers are warm, autumn is mild, and winters are cold.
Hungary is a landlocked country and is bordered by Austria to the west, Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Romania to the southeast, and Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia to the south. Hungary’s 11 National parks contain a plethora of protected animal and plant species. The country is also blessed with many mineral springs whose thermal waters are utilized in bathhouses and spas.
The Hungarian language is unique and complex and has Siberian and Finno-Ugric roots. It is not related to any of the Indo-European languages. Hungary did adopt the Latin alphabet in the year 1000, and nowadays travelers are able to communicate in English or German with many Hungarians. This is perfect, since I speak both languages!
The Hungarian cuisine is rich, aromatic, and delicious. Common meats are pork, beef, venison, and fowl, such as chickens, goose, and ducks. Carp is a fish staple on menus. Hungary produces excellent wines in its own vineyards. It is common to greet guests with a glass of ice cold Palinka, which is a tasty brandy distilled from a variety of fruit, such as apricot, pear, cherry, apple, plum, and grape. Fruit and vegetable offerings are plentiful throughout the season.
During the trip, I checked on our current herb orders, which have been harvested, dried, processed and bagged over the season, and are about to be shipped to America. I also toured the general herb processing facilities and I visited several of our essential oil distilleries, where I learned about the highly complicated process of essential oil distillation. All of our suppliers employ Essential Oil Engineers as production supervisors, to ensure that only the highest quality essential oil is being produced. These are graduates from prestigious universities in their regions, which offer specialized degrees for commercial essential oil production.
We procure many important herbs and essential oils from this special growing area. Hungarian staples in my own herb pantry are Nettle leaf, Horsetail, Meadowsweet flowers, Comfrey leaf and root, Goldenrod, and Blackberry leaf. Our Agrimony, Buckthorn Bark, Celandine, Centaury, Cleavers, Horse Chestnut, Shepherd’s Purse, and Tansy are of Hungarian origin as well.
My favorites from our Hungarian essential oil selection include apple scented Roman Chamomile, Hops, and Angelica root. Caraway, Fennel, Lovage, Sweet Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley seed, and Tarragon all come from our Hungarian essential oil distilling partners.
Stories and photos from my trip to Bulgaria coming soon!