Transylvania, a Romanian region, has a long herbalism tradition. In the past, medicinal plants were used for divination and to treat diseases, but over time part of the knowledge was lost.
The elders were the ones mostly still preserving this precious knowledge, which nowadays is being rediscovered thanks to people like Emese Csíki, who in 2006 decided to leave her office job to practice herbalism in the small rural town of Szentábrahám (Avrămești) in Transylvania.
Her herb garden, nicknamed ‘Wondergarden’, consists of about sixty different medicinal plants, grown with traditional organic methods. Emese and her family live in a 300 year old mansion in one hectare of land, close to nature.
The herbalist job, or “gyógynövénytermesztő” in the local language, is based on respect for the environment and on the principles of sustainable agriculture. The herbs are collected, dried and processed by hand, to prepare wellness teas and traditional Transylvania spices. The ancient knowledge is thus used to appease the taste and to promote wellness.
Bunching onion, hyssop, garlic, dill and cornflower are just some of the spices traditionally used by the Szeklers (Székelyek), subgroup of the hungarian people living in Transylvania, mostly in the counties of Harghita, Covasna and Mureș. Legend says that Csaba, son of the Hun Emperor Attila, led the Szeklers to the Carpathians, where they’re still waiting for their protector Csaba to come back.
One of Emese’s teas carries her name, but also that of a legendary figure: Emese, mother of Prince Álmos. “Emese’s dream” is a delicate and feminine tea, whose rose, calendula, elderberry and linden flower flavours invoke the maternal figure. According to the hungarian legend, Emese saw in her dreams the Turul, a mythological bird similar to a big falcon, who told her that her son would become the founder of a great dynasty.
By contacting Emese on her website or facebook page you can organize guided tours to her herb garden, taste her teas, try the traditional cuisine with spices and learn the techniques of organic farming. From specialists interested in medicinal plants to children wanting to spend a day outdoors, the herbalist’s garden offers interesting activities for people of all ages.
Unlike Emese, Csekefalva’s herbalist Noemi Moldovan-Szeredai started getting passionate about medicinal herbs when she was in high-school. Her interest in herbalism kept growing while she wandered in the fields looking for plants with a traditional book about regional herbs.
At the end of her studies, she moved to Csekefalva’s village in Harghita County in order to follow her profession as a minister. However, she continued pursuing her herbalism hobby.
She collects herbs to make teas and fruits for jams and syrups. Noemi makes jams from her own fruit trees: plum, sour cherry, dogberry, quince, apple, pear, peach, apricot and strawberry.
In 2012 she and her husband decided to plant lavender. Now she produces teas, syrups and jams, that she usually mixes with herbs or fruit like in her apricot and lavender jam. In addition she makes goat milk soaps, closet and drawer sachets, little pillows and essential oils.
Lavender fields and fruit trees maintenance, herbs collection and products making, require a lot of passion, patience and workforce. Noemi believes in herbalism as a good disease prevention measure. She is committed to spread her knowledge in her community and in the surroundings. That is why she often participates in festivals and local markets.
It is possible to plan a visit to see Noemi’s garden and lavender fields and to taste her homemade lavender cookies. Tourists or locals can buy her products at events or markets (check the facebook page), after the guided tour or just by contacting her via phone (+400724071268).
Authors: Francesca Silvestri and Cristina Vasile