Originating in India, jasmine is found in China where it’s served in tea. A wanderer, its name comes from Arabic via Persia, and its etymology alone foretells the ravages to come: Jas signifies despair and Min deception. Now a woman’s name, Yasmine has always been the flower of love and today with the revolutions in Tunisia, it will remain here or there, the flower of seduction and of lovers’ vagaries.
So Kâma, the God of love in the Indian pantheon, the ancestor to our Greco-Roman Eros, pierced hearts with arrows set with jasmine. It’s said that Cleopatra embalmed her ship’s sails with the perfume to accost Marc-Antony. And is it all that surprising to owe to Madame de Sévigné the responsibility for starting the tradition of offering jasmine at Versailles, in exchange for a kiss…
Harvested even from gardens in the early days, it wasn’t until 1860 that the first fields planted with shrubs arrived thanks to the development of canals allowing for optimum irrigation. “For more than a century and a half, the town of Grasse maintained a monopoly on the cultivation and the industrial treatment of jasmine to obtain the absolute. Originally, jasmine held a privileged position in the region, plantations stretched from Vence to Seillans. But the cultivated areas and the production have not ceased to diminish. Today, the geographical area of this crop is bounded by Bar-sur-Loup in the east, and Grasse in the west. In the Var region, its cultivation stretches from Fayence to Callian.
The only jasmine producing region until 1925, Grasse has seen its production progressively decline,” explains Chloé Fargier, researcher at the International Perfume Museum.
So today the jasmine harvest in Grasse is a special moment that takes place at the beginning of August. The flower is at its peak on a warm night over 17°C. It is advisable to get up before dawn and to pick the flowers in the early morning. Fragile, they must be treated in the following hours. Seven million flowers are necessary for the elaboration of just one liter of jasmine essence… Reserved for the luxury perfume industry, it plays a part in the legend of many compositions, including the perfume Joy by the Maison Patou, created in 1930 and for which 10,600 flowers are needed to make one ounce of perfume. The more democratic synthetic perfume might have done away with jasmine’s natural antianxiety properties if it wasn’t for the true flower’s poetry. Celebrating a jasmine wedding anniversary marks 66 years of love, and we languish impatiently waiting for the 66th Jasmine Festival and its great flower fight that will take place in Grasse next August.