Agros (Chypre) (AFP)
Lavender, Basil and Roses: History and aromatic plants are cultivated in Cyprus to expand its appeal to the sun and the sea and regain its high botanical status dating back to Roman times.
From sunrise in the small mountain village of Agros located 1,100 meters (3,600 feet) in the Troodos mountain range, Andria Tsolakis, her younger sister Elena and their mother Maria are busy among their rose bushes.
In the fresh morning air, they pick the Damask roses for which Agros and the family are famous.
For more than seven decades, the Tsolakis family has cultivated the pink rose of Syrian origin that they say they mysteriously arose at the foot of the village church, extracting rose water and oils used in cooking and cosmetics.
“We need about 400 roses, flowers, to make one kilo (two pounds) of roses (petals). And from that kilo, we will produce two liters of rose water, ”says Andria, 31.
When their father, Chris, took over the business, he decided to set up a boutique called “The Rose Factory” and add Agros to the Eastern Mediterranean Island tourism circuit.
In a normal tourist season, before the Covid-19 pandemic which brought a large part of the sector to its knees, “we welcomed up to 10 buses each day,” said Elena.
# photo1A European project aims to promote tourism in six southern Member States – Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Italy and Malta – with the attraction of their aromatic and medicinal plants.
Partly funded by the European Union, Mappae (Trails of medicinal and aromatic plants across Europe) affirms that its mission is to “create a thematic multisensory, tourist and cultural route, linking European destinations united by a common tradition” .
“We are fortunate to have over 800 different herbs, some of which can only be found in Cyprus,” said Yioula Michaelidou Papakyriacou, local project coordinator.
“Our grandmothers could cure everything with herbs,” she said.
Papakyriacou attributes the high quality of the island’s essential oils to its geology, the formation of the Troodos Range, air quality and weather conditions.
# photo2 ″ The climate here is ideal for growing these kinds of herbs, because the herbs love heat, they love the strong sun, ”said herbalist Miranda Tringis, who runs a botanical park near Ayia Napa, the the island’s first seaside destination.
Cyprus is proud of its rich flora, its plants as well as its olive trees and cypresses.
“It was like that in the first century AD, when (the Roman naturalist) Pliny the Elder wrote that Cyprus herbs are the best in the entire Roman Empire,” Tringis said.
“And that is still true to this day. “
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