A TURKISH ROSE
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A CONVERSATION WITH ESENGÜL ARTISOY
ROSE HARVESTER IN ISPARTA, TURKEY
Esengül Artisoy is a rose harvester living in the village of Senir near the city of Isparta in Turkey. Esengül, whose name means “roses in the wind”, was born into a family of rose farmers. Her family no longer cultivates their own roses, but the rose harvest, starting in May of each year, is her favorite time of the year. The season is short and the blooms are plucked before the sun dries the precious oil contained within Rosa x damascena - one of the two types of roses in the world which produce the oil. The Turkish farmers and harvesters are responsible for some sixty percent of the world’s annual rose harvest.
My life is alwaysEsengül Artisoy, Rose Harvester
around the fields,
S+O — HOW DID YOU BECOME A ROSE HARVESTER?
Artisoy — Ever since I was a little girl, roses have always been in my life. Everyone in my family, and everyone that I know, has been farming roses to make a living. I started harvesting the roses myself at the age of sixteen.
S+O — WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT THE HARVEST?
Artisoy — Harvesting roses is not only a job for me. It’s something that I also enjoy doing. You can always find work that will pay you, but being with the roses is something very special that makes me feel good.
S+O — WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF ROSE HARVESTING IN THE AREA?
Artisoy — I’m not sure how the roses came to this area, but it was way before I was born. This is an ancient tradition in this part of the world. It’s a symbol that represents Isparta and all of Turkey as well.
S+O — HOW LARGE IS THE TEAM THAT WORKS WITH YOU IN THE FIELDS?
Artisoy — I am in charge of twenty-five to thirty workers. We are all women, and we also work together at different times of the year harvesting various crops in the area. We are all from this area, some are my relatives. It’s fun to work together. We always find something to laugh about, especially when enjoying our lunch together. We play music and dance when it is the right time. There is no stress, no worries here.
S+O — WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO HARVEST THE ROSES?
Artisoy — The best time to harvest roses is early in the morning at first light. The blooms must be freshly blossomed and pink in order to be full of oil. As the day progresses, the sun matures the rose. When the sun shines on the flowers that have bloomed, they lose their preciousness. The oil dries out, the petals become whiter and spread before falling out. Therefore, we have to work very quickly to harvest the best roses in the morning hours before this happens.
S+O — WHAT QUANTITY ARE YOU ABLE TO HARVEST IN A SINGLE DAY?
Artisoy — It really depends on the day. Usually my team and I can harvest one and a half tons a day during the peak season. We have much larger fields now, so there are many roses to pick. Sometimes we will work in the fields picking roses from five in the morning until five in the afternoon. Of course, it is better to harvest the flowers in the morning, but there aren’t enough of us to make it to all the rose fields. These are long days, but it’s wonderful because you are surrounded by the smell of roses.
S+O — WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FLOWERS YOU HARVEST?
Artisoy — We collect the petals and then take them to the factory to be weighed, and prepared for distillation. There they process the petals to extract the rose oil and rose water. I don’t see this part of the work, so I am not familiar with the exact process. I know that they will be used to make perfumes and beauty products.
S+O — WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH ROSES?
Artisoy — I look forward to waking up in the morning during the season, knowing that I will be going into the fields. Everywhere in the air, it smells of roses. I fill with joy, and forget about any problems.
“These are long days, but
it’s wonderful because
you are surrounded by
the smell of roses.”
Photography by Oresti Tsonopoulos
Film by Oresti Tsonopoulos and Alexandra Stewart
Special Acknowledgments - Sebat, Aydin Gülyaği, Joanne Klein Wolterink and Sedat Çakmak
Exclusive Edition 006 TURKISH ROSE OIL
The fields of the southern Anatolian province of Isparta blossom each summer with the fragrant scent of Rosa x damascena. This rose, known widely as the Damascus Rose, Otto Rose in Bulgaria and Mohammadi Rose in Iran, is one of the two types of roses prized for their highly covetable essential oil. The oil is extracted by steam distillation requiring nearly ten thousand roses to produce just five milliliters of oil, making it one of the most expensive essential oils available.
Isparta is a southern Anatolian province known as the land of roses, located approximately two hours inland from the Turquoise Coast town of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea. The scenic countryside features gently rolling hills covered seasonal blooms with their scent, of rose or of lavender, drifting on breezes towards Lake Burdur. As the area has not yet developed the caliber of accommodations qualifying for this travel guide, our recommendation is to visit the fields and local producers on a day excursion arranged during the harvest season by perfumer Joanne Klein Wolternik, www.essentialtravel.nl.