It is indeed healing to inhale the scent of the green and to walk through 710 different kinds of plants. After walking for a while, Tuğçe greeted us. We sat cross-legged while waiting to hear about the Medicinal Plant Garden, which has been healing the hood for 17 years, from Tuğçe who has been a local for 10 years.
What kind of garden is this?
As the very first garden of medicinal plants of both Zeytinburnu and Turkey, it is also an icon of the hood. There are 710 types of plants in this thematic park. We are open to all plants coming from outside and the gifted ones of course. We take everything, seeds, seedlings, and even pieces of branches. This is crucial to sustain plant diversity and contribute to the biogenetic cycle. We also have a seed bank here. We try to ensure the continuity of the plants with packing and safekeeping. First, we take the coming plants under preservation to heal, then we give a start to their journey by planting them to make sure they find their rightful place in the garden.
Why is the garden in Zeytinburnu?
Because here is the healing house of Zeytinburnu. Merkezefendi tomb, the mosque, the area to make mesir macunu (mesir paste), and the hospital all reside here. This is a spiritually strong place; therefore, it is therapeutic. Balıklı Rum Armenian hospital and its church are located here as well. The water of the church is said to be good for the eyes. When such healing places come together, I can’t help but think that establishing a medicinal plants garden somewhere else would be a misfortune.
In what ways do Tıbbi Bitkiler Bahçesi and Zeytinburnu feed into each other? How does this relation in between take shape?
The garden has a collective structure. It expands and takes its shape along with the hood. Both the hood and the garden learn a lot from each other. For instance, we feed animals together. Too much sorrel (rumex acostella) and purslane (portulaca oleracea) grow here. If not collected periodically, they can lead to some problems for us. During plant collecting, locals volunteer to team up with us to collect the sorrel and purslane. Everybody takes their share home to use for cooking. Such collaborative activities are entertaining for children, too.
Each and every part of the plants is healing. It is precious to examine and observe them. The garden’s diversity is turning it into a ‘practice garden’ where medical doctors are being educated. Being open to anyone and carrying out the process of learning with everyone are the main advantages here. There are about 140 different seminars, workshops, and courses offered in the garden. There are both paid and free educations for not only adults but also children. For instance, children can directly observe the plants they learn about in Angiospermae (flowering plants) and Gymnospermae (seed-producing plants) classes in high school.
We have fixed and essential oils we acquired upon the recommendations of phytotherapy and aromatherapy professors. When purchased, we certainly provide information about how to use them because in fact, they are medicine and they need to be handled carefully. This garden is a source of sharing and healing in every aspect and it increases what it already has by sharing.