In 2013, driven by a desire to help one of his family members facing health problems, Ozren, an enthusiast of nature and healthy lifestyle, started his journey with wild herbs. As a private and calm man, he had enough of the everyday urban rush, so he decided to improve his quality of life and share his experience with others. He found inspiration and resources in intact and preserved Istrian wilderness.
The Istrian peninsula and its intact nature is a true oasis for wild herbs that grow in the wilderness of Uchka, Cicarija, and its most southern part – Cape Kamenjak, Premantura and Banjole.
In time, Ivana, a certified phytotherapist, connected with Ozren and with joint strengths, uchka cosmetics was created – effective natural skincare. And all of that, with an idea of a partnership between man and nature harmonized with sustainable development.
“Wildpicking moments” by Ozren
It is June. The longest day of the year will soon come. There were some rainy days, but for a week it has been hot as hell. I am preparing for tomorrow’s trip to mountain Uchka, where I will pick tall mallow and yarrow. In that area they secrete more intense scent and aromas because they are affected by salt and winds from the sea.
Preparation and equipment
Today I must prepare everything I need to safely pick and store herbs. First, a walking cane and a raincoat.
I admit I am afraid of snakes and lightning, and that is inevitable in nature, when you are a couple of hours away from the safety of your car. As a protection from snakes, I put on thick pants and tie them above my hiking boots. At +32° C from 1:00 p.m. till 5:00 p.m., when the sun is at its zenith, due to the high temperature and strength of insolation, the concentration of medicinal substances in herbs is at its peak. A broad hat and a white T-shirt protect me from the sun and the hundreds of insects that I disturb as I pass through the bushes. Two liters of water, a basket, a couple of airy jute bags and scissors – that’s all I carry with me.
The same evening, before I go to bed, in my mind I go through the locations where I was choosing and gathering herbs last year. I orient myself by the rocks and its shapes because I leave the marked paths and remember the bushes and trees along the way. Squinting, reclining in the armchair, I listen to Estas Tonne until I fall asleep completely calm. In the morning, after loading all my things into the car, I set off for Uchka.
Upon arriving at mountain Uchka, I immediately turn off from the well-known path, deeper into wild parts. Taping in front of me with a cane to chase away the snake that is laying in the sun. On the edges, I come across smaller, still underdeveloped plants. I pass by, leaving them behind in search of those where I will not disturb the natural harmony by gathering. Coming across a rich habitat, I carefully select only several flowers and leaves to pick. Plants continue to grow.
Before I pick the first flower, I gaze at the plant, pause for a moment and assess which flowers I will pick. I use both hands to gather them. Putting some of the things away, with my left hand I gently hold the flower in my palm, holding the stem between the index and middle finger. With the right hand, I gently cut it with the tip of the scissors so that the flower remains in my left hand that places it in the cloth bag.
I express my gratitude to every plant, shrub, or patch of grass where I gathered flowers or leaves, justifying my actions by telling them they will help another being. I then proceed by sprinkling several drops of water from my bottle. The peace and harmony I share with nature can only yield goodness.
Part of the herbs I place in jars that same evening. I pour a few of them with the grape seed oil that we got last year from the old Istrian vineyards, and some of them with cold-pressed rosehip and hazelnut oils. Later, I will distill the rest of the herbs for hydrolats. For their base, I use spring water from Uchka, from the Joseph II well located on Vela Uchka. In the end, I will put everything that remains after maceration and distillation into compost and return it to nature.