Aegean Essencesis creating wild Greek botanicals
As wild as the sea
Kalos orisate (welcome!) to our grass-roots adventure. We're an Alaskan/Greek couple living a simple life on the remote Aegean island of Lesvos. We love searching, researching, playing, sharing, inventing and reinventing. We spend most days outdoors, in the mountains, by the sea, in an olive grove or in our garden. Everywhere we look there are creative processes generating beautiful work. We can't help but be inspired to do the same.
Our latest project begins at the source, collecting and distilling aromatic native Greek botanicals from the rugged countryside around our village. We've been wildplant addicts for years. We forage, cook, infuse and dry them, but lately we invested in a traditional copper still so we can preserve their most delicate essences. We're launching our cottage enterprise with hydrosols (herbal mists) and will be adding infusions, soaps, sachets, fragrance oils, balms and lotions as time goes by.
Lesvos is just a few miles from the coast of Asia Minor in the Northern Aegean Sea. It's the third-largest Greek island and is abounding in an astonishing variety of aromatic plants. All year the mountains are redolent with the smells of wild herbs, edible greens, fruit trees and wildflowers. It's so diverse that many medicinal/aromatic herbs were originally studied, named and classified here (by Theophrastus and his friend Aristotle).
We delight in exploring dense pine forests, lush river gullies full of bay and myrtle, endless olive groves with understories of terebinth, cistus, thyme and oregano, mountain meadows abuzz with honeybees, rugged hillsides strewn with fragrant wildflowers and cobbled Aegean seashores dotted with fig, pomegranate, cypress, and eucalyptus trees.
Wherever we wander there are enchanting wild smells just begging to be bottled. Our mission is to extract the essences from some of these potent plants and to share them with folks who appreciate them. Our boots, our harvesting baskets and a traditional copper still are the tools we use. We have a vast variety of aromatic plants at our fingertips, ever-changing with the seasons.
Using wild plants, fresh mountain springwater and our handmade still, we produce herbal waters (hydrosols) and a wee bit of essential oil. Our hydrosols are made by harvesting the native plants at their peak of potency and distilling them slowly in small batches. We practice wild-crafting because we believe that plants adapted to their natural habitat have more flower power than cultivated crops. Those that thrive in the intense Aegean climate are supercharged with vitality! Leaf by leaf, blossom by blossom, we harvest at least a kilo (about two pounds) of plant material to produce a liter of aromatic hydrosol.
Hydrosol is the distilled essential water of the plant, super saturated with all its water-soluble components (essential oil contains the non-water-soluble components). The roots, stems, bark, leaves, and/or flowers are suspended in a kettle of springwater so they are penetrated by steam heat. As the steam passes through, the plant cells gradually release their fragrant essences and the steam is cooled into droplets and captured in bottles. The plant's essential oil rises to the top and can be separated out but some remains suspended microscopically within the water. The distillation water with dissolved essential oil components is known as hydrosol.
Hydrosols (also called hydrolates) are milder and gentler than essential oils but 20-30 times stronger than herbal tea. They are packed full of nutrients, plant acids, and antioxidants. They are light, delicate, and easily absorbed, giving an instant dose of plant goodness to your skin. Unlike essential oils, they contain the full spectrum of the plant's essence. Like essential oils, they have therapeutic properties that are still being discovered. Our hydrosols are 100% pure, plant-based, naturally organic and are free of preservatives or other additives.
Hydrosols are excellent mild tonics which restore and balance the skin's natural PH level. They can be sprayed on as often as you like for a soft, nourishing fragrance. They're lovely as natural air fresheners or spritzed on linens for herb-scented dreams. They can be added to bathwater or applied after shaving or a day in the sun. Many hydrosols, like oregano and thyme, are antimicrobial and are excellent for surfaces where food is prepared. Hydrosols can replace water in recipes for homemade soap, creams, lotions, masks, and cleaning products. I love applying their beautiful wild scents in layers, reaping the benefits of each plant and staying happily hydrated with soft radiant skin.
Some of the plants we work with include cypress, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, olive, chamomile, myrtle, sage, thyme, cistus, oregano, bay, lemon balm, and St. John's wort (for starters). Along with our hydrosols we're developing other botanical products with organic locally-sourced ingredients like olive oil, sea salt, clay, beeswax, and honey. Our patrons will receive samples of these, wild herbal gifts and/or other delightful local goodies. We're looking forward to sharing ideas and conceiving new products (i.e. tell us what you need and we'll do our best to make it).
We're conscientious wildcrafters and are committed to honoring this gloriously diverse ecosystem. We harvest our herbs with gratitude and reverence, taking only a few sprigs from each plant in order to help them flourish. The spent herbs from the still are used for making paper. The rye flour paste that we use to seal the still becomes crunchy dog biscuits (they love them). We lighten our footprints by living off the grid for much of the year and growing most of our own food. In addition to wildcrafting we paint, photograph, cook, sculpt, make pottery, and create music.
We love our plantwork and want to explore all this beautiful island has to offer. It takes a lot of roaming, harvesting and preparing to produce these wonderful rare essences. Lesvos is bursting with herbal inspiration and we are determined to learn and grow. Support for our efforts keeps our spirits high, helps us get by and inspires us to create more wild botanical products. In turn you receive our kind regards, fresh hydrosols and herbal gifts (I'm working on lavender-paper car air fresheners at the moment). You'll have exclusive access to a growing array of new products as well.
We mail care packages to our patrons the first week of each month. A
one-time payment is an option if you simply want to test the waters (just cancel your subscription before the next scheduled payment). We're happy to take requests and will post updates on the essences available. Patrons and visitors are welcome to join our journey through our posts and our videos.
Sandra and Giannis
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