Sonia Ibidhi, a 42-year-old former Tunisian journalist, changed her life and decided to settle in Tabarka (north-western Tunisia) to produce edible flowers, a novel product that -little by little- is in high demand.
Sonia brought the seeds of 42 varieties from France and began to grow a dozen types of flowers. She currently uses her own seeds and grows borage, a blue flower that tastes like cucumber, chive flower, a purple flower that tastes like onion, and nasturtium, the best-known edible flower. "I grow things that I like. Flowers are beautiful and full of colors," she said.
In Tunisia, people already use some flowers in their dishes; dried roses are used in some cakes, and lavender is an ingredient in ras el hanout, a typical mixture of spices for traditional couscous. However, fresh flower tasting is a novelty.
"I thought that these flowers would be destined for export and that they would not arouse immediate interest in the local market. But I was surprised by the growing demand, especially from some hotels," Sonia stated.
Sonia started her adventure in 2019. She decided to settle in the mountainous region of Tabarka, which are ideal for this endeavor due to their humid climate and fresh-water resources. Settling there wasn't easy. She had to fill out a huge administrative dossier and explain on numerous occasions to the skeptical forest department what the edible flowers are for.
Fortunately, the originality of her project seduced the African development bank, which helped her with some US $13,000, and she finally got a five-hectare piece of land, which she leases for 1,400 dinars ($ 510) per year to the state.
Now Sonia fears she'll lose the land. According to the director of the General Forest Agency, Mohamed Boufarou, "she did not respect the lease she signed with the agency and grew strawberries, which aren't edible flowers and are wild fruits, without authorization." Boufarou said he thinks Sonia's project is very innovative, but the AFP cannot open the door to this type of implantation, as it changes the land's wild aspect and makes it lose its forests traits.