Between 15th to 16th May 2012, the gene bank of the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Biológicos (Banco Português de Germoplasma Vegetal), in Braga, held the 2nd meeting of the Grundtvig Plant Wild project.
16th May 2012 – Visit to ERVITAL and CANTINHO DAS AROMATICAS
During the second day, on 16th May 2012, the people who attended the meeting had the opportunity to visit two enterprises that deal with medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) production: ERVITAL and CANTINHO DAS AROMATICAS.
ERVITAL – Plantas Aromáticas e Medicinais, Lda. was incorporated in 1997, but in reality initiated activity since 1991. ERVITAL is located in de Mezio-Castro Daire, and is and agriculture company with production fields and a nursery.
The primary purpose is to produce, transform and sell medicinal, aromatic and culinary plants, combining the principles and methods of organic production (ECOCERT certification). Main objects of business are herbs for infusions and seasoning products.
Several complementary activities include consultancy and training in MAP and organic production methods, as well as in recuperation of green spaces and gardens that need low maintenance, using predominantly MAP species.
As it is located in a very rural area, the company has been very important in the rural development of the region, no only by its work but also because directly gives employment to several people of the region and, indirectly, through the wild plants collectors.
The main plants harvested from the wild are: “carqueja” (Pterospartum tridentatum), Erica cinerea, Calluna vulgaris, Lavandula pedunculata,. Other plants traded by Ervital are: Achillea millefolium, Betula pendula, Chamomilla sp., Foeniculum vulgare, Geranium robertianum, Hypericum androsemum, Hypericum perforatum, Laurus nobilis, Malva sylvestris, Melissa officinalis, Mentha pulegium, Mentha spicata, Petroselinum sp., Plantago lanceolata, Rosmarinus officinalis, Rubus idaeus, Thymus mastichina. They also cultivate foreign plants as Cymbopogon citratus, Lippia citriodora.
During the travel through the Douro valley, we had the opportunity to see the mountain covered by the yellow flowers of Pterospartum tridentatum and the purple flowers of Erica cinerea and Calluna vulgaris, and the vineyard cultivations for producing “vinho verde” and “porto”.
In the afternoon, we visited the Cantinho das aromaticas in Vila Nova de Gaia, next to Porto.
Founded in 2002, CANTINHO DAS AROMATICAS is an agricultural company with a production farm and a nursery, whose primary purpose is to produce and sell medicinal, culinary and other wild species of Mediterranean herbs, combining the principles and methods of organic production (ECOCERT certification).
It is surrounded by urban area, located in one of the few historic farms where, according to Portuguese history, Prince D.Pedro and D. Inês lived for two years and where their daughter D. Beatriz was born, in the fourteenth century.
It has the largest area of the country in the production of MAPs under organic farming, with 3 hectares. It has been exporting to the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and herbal remedies for the last five years. They sell plants in pots, plants dry bulk and dry packed with their own brand or customer’s brand, plants fresh cut according to availability at the time of year. They do online commercialisation and through the farm store.
On the farm we can find an Iberian flora with 150 species and varieties. From condiments to medicinal plants, some of the cultivated species are Echinacea purpurea, Lippia citriodora, Cymbopogon citratus, Mentha x piperita, Laurus nobilis, Thymus citrodorus, Rosmarinus officinalis, Melissa officinalis, Ocimum basilicum, Origanum majorana, etc. They also cultivate wild and rare species in Portugal, lost in the Portuguese culinary tradition, such as mastic thyme (Thymus mastichina) and Hart’s Pennyroyal (Mentha cervina).
The company’s mission is based on the preservation of biodiversity, education and dissemination of knowledge about plants and enhancement of national products. The MAPs have always been used in the Portuguese culture and knowledge of its use is an heritage of historical responsibility.
The demand of organic herbs is much higher than the production capacity of the company and they are always willing and try to disseminate the concept and provide technical support and knowledge to those who want to launch projects in the area. They play an active role in sharing expertise with farmers who are implementing their own production, while contributing decisively to the creation of a new sector in Portuguese agriculture, which is intended to be unique in the world 100% bio.
They have provided MAP courses for the last thirteen years in various prestigious institutions across the country and islands (botanical gardens, universities, schools), organized event with Quercus (National Association for Nature Conservation), as in the case of “Aromatic Saturday” over the past 3 years and they have several press articles and documentaries on television channels.
Luís Alves (partners and founder) is the author and host of an innovative interactive MAPs course on DVD, which has sold thousands of copies in Portugal, and has maintained over the last 4 years close collaboration with the National Television (RTP1) program, Praça da Alegria, thus providing public service with a section on plants and gardens. He has also collaborated with Biosfera, a television program on National Television RTP2, where he made several reports with MAPs.
The company also has an important role in environment education, with more than 5000 visits from schools, institutions and individuals every year, with guided tours on the farm. They also created a MAP blog with more than 311.500 visits and 500.500 page views and a channel on Youtube, with 184 videos and more than 452.000 views.