This extremely fragrant, herbaceous perennial with bright yellow flowers is the reason my father, three of Steffi’s harvesters and I are so high up in the Corsican mountains. Immortelle has a high content of very fragrant natural oil and is coveted by the world’s perfume market. Today representing Italy (Roberto), France (Bruno), Morocco (Bolafki), and USA, we as the work crew are here to harvest its abundance.
Immortelle is one of the beautiful smelling plants that make up the variety of floras known as the maquis, the shrubby undergrowth of Corsica including rosemary, cistus, lavender, and myrtle. Fields of maquis blanket within the forest when natural forest fires destroy the pine growth. The maquis envelops the olfactory sense; even the blind-folded Napoleon Bonaparte could identify the smell as he traveled by boat alongside his homeland on his way to exile.
To arrive at our destination, we first bicycled to meet Bruno and workers at Essences Naturelles at 7:00 am. Then Dad and I followed them hurriedly in Steffi’s little white French truck, as Bruno progressed at an amazing rate in the bigger truck. To fulfill their morning routine, we stopped three times to pump air in the tires, purchase baguettes, and fill water bottles at a high mountain-spring fountain.
Next we traveled higher and higher into the mountains until our little truck could go no further. At that point, we parked and then jumped into Bruno’s truck bed holding on as we were soon swaying back and forth up the curvy mountain road. We passed huge forests and rocky outcroppings. The air grew colder, quite an alien feeling to me, after being in a constant warm temperature. Finally, the field of immortelle, interspersed with young pines and thistles, came into view. It sloped down to the edge of a forest, on the lower side of the road, and up above us as far as we could see, touching the almost cloudless sky.
With sickle in hand, Bruno showed us how to cut, bundle, and carry the immortelle which we weighed and stacked. The heavy manual labor was unnoticed due to the cool mountain breeze, the spectacular aroma and view, and the quietness of the mountains. At the end of the day when the truck bed was full, my dad and I climbed on top of our harvest, stretched out, and slumbered back down the mountain. Occasionally, I opened my eyes to admire God’s creation while continuously smelling it.