Visit to Sulawesi, Indonesia
It was a one hour flight from Dempasar, Bali to the Makassar airport in Sulawesi. From Makassar, it was another one hour flight to Pomalaa.
Sulawesi is shaped like an orchid, Pomalaa and Makassar are on two different petals of the flower. Makassar is south western Sulawesi while Pomalaa is south eastern Sulawesi.
The island of Sulawesi is located north east of Java due east of Borneo. Sulawesi was formerly known as Celebes.
Robert Seidel, President and Founder of The Essential Oil Company and Dorene Petersen, President and Founder of the American College of Healthcare Sciences travelled to this beautiful Pacific island. The intention to view farms and distilleries for the production of Citronella, Patchouli and Clove leaf and stem essential oils was well accomplished.
We were twenty people in a group traveling the roads of Sulawesi in several small cars. The roads are narrow in Sulawesi, and many places that we travelled to could not handle a vehicle the size of a bus. We needed a police escort to make certain that the roads were clear for our long drives.
Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)
Our first journey was to Tanggetada in South East Sulawesi. Farmers in Tanggetada were known for growing chili peppers, however the market for chili peppers is offering low prices.
An agronomist inspected the land and observed the soil conditions in the area. It was found that the sandy soil in the region is well suited for cultivating Citronella.
A project was initiated for 50 local farmers in 2018. Citronella seedlings were brought from Java and planted on 50 hectares of land (1 hectare equals 2.47 acres of land). Today, there are 125 hectares in the region growing Citronella. Five one metric ton distillation units are in place for distilling the Citronella with plans to establish more distilleries to handle increased capacity of growth.
Citronella is easy to cultivate and needs little care. Fertilizers and pesticides are not required for growing Citronella.
Citronella is harvested every three months. The cut grass is allowed to air dry for a short period prior to distillation. A single batch of one metric ton of citronella takes about 4 hours in a water/steam distillation unit. The yield of essential oil from distilling Citronella is between 0.5% and 1% by weight
Patchouli (Pogostomon cablin)
Patchouli growth in Indonesia has been migrating for the last 25 years. Patchouli is unfortunately devastating to the soil, and plantations are frequently abandoned after two years. One of the many problems that Patchouli faces, despite its overuse of soil nutrients, is the presence of nematodes. Once nematodes have been established on a Patchouli plantation, it becomes impossible to grow Patchouli any longer.
We drove to Taori where in 2017, a project was established with 170 farmers and 200 hectares of land for growing Patchouli.
A nursery was built in Polinggona for the production of quality Patchouli starts. Mother plants are grown from superior Patchouli plants. The leafing stems are individually cut from the Mother Plants. These cuttings are then placed in the nursery to grow before being distributed to the farmers for their plantations.
Around the nursery, you can see Patchouli, Citronella and Marigolds growing. The Citronella serves as an insect repellent. The Patchouli is for the farmers, and most interesting is the use that has been discovered for Marigolds.
When marigolds are planted on a nematode infested field, a resin produced by the marigold roots repels the nematodes. After careful study, it has been found that marigolds grown for six months, then plowed into the field can keep nematodes off the land for between 5 and 7 years.
This of course will lead to extended growth periods for Patchouli, without having to change locations. In the past, many forest lands have been cut to prepare the land for Patchouli production. This in itself has been devastating to the forests considering the short period of time that Patchouli could be grown. Marigolds can save the day!!
Natural methods are used for cultivating the Patchouli to avoid the use of harmful chemicals.
An interesting addition to the nursery is the promotion of “Zero Plastic” in the community. This has resulted in a very clean village and a raising of the consciousness of children and adults for protecting the local environment.
Patchouli is distilled in water/steam distillation units. The yield of essential oil from distilling Patchouli ranges from 1.5 – 2.5% by weight. It has been discovered that the stems of the Patchouli plant produce the highest quantities of Patchouli alcohol, is a much desired component of Patchouli oil. Chopping the Patchouli into small pieces increases the yield per distillation because more Patchouli can be placed inside the still with fewer “rat holes” making distillation more complete.
Clove buds, Leaf and Stem (Syzgium aromaticum aka Eugenia caryophyllata)
You will see nothing but Clove trees growing as far as your vision will take you when you drive through the mountains in South East Sulawesi.
We left our small cars and hopped onto the flatbeds of open trucks for a ride up into the mountains where the Clove trees grow. This is where the Clove Buds, stems and leaves are harvested.
Tarps cover flat spaces. This is where the clove buds are dried before further processing.
Clove Buds, leaf and stems are important products from Indonesia. Clove Buds are not distilled in Indonesia. The Clove Buds are harvested and dried. The stems are separated from the buds. The Clove Buds are used in making cigarettes. Seventy eight percent of the men in Indonesia smoke cigarettes. The majority of cigarettes are a combination of tobacco and Clove Buds.
Prior to packing and shipping Clove Buds, a fine powder that is produced during the drying of Clove Buds is removed by gently shaking the dried buds over a frame that permits the powder to sift through. The Clove Buds are shipped to cigarette manufacturers and the Clove Powder is distilled for essential oil.
Fallen Clove leaves are collected for distillation. The Clove Leaf and Clove Stem are generally distilled in the same water/steam distillation units. Clove leaves yield 1 – 2% essential oil by weight. New methods used for collecting the leaves in nets has improved the yield to 2.5 – 3.5%. Catching the leaves in nets keeps the leaves from decomposing during contact with the soil below the tree. This is very innovative, and very simple.
One unfortunate factor in Clove production is the devastation of the natural forest land. Wood is now quite expensive in Sulawesi. The stills are fired using mostly spent (previously distilled and dried) leaves and buds with a mixture of wood. If I were a wise man living in Sulawesi, I would plant a coppice forest for the production of fire wood.