Those looking to experience a real taste of oriental life on their holiday to China may want to consider seeing a custom which dates back centuries.
In a small village called Zhangshan situated in the Songyang county of the Zhejiang province, families come together to begin the process of extracting the oils from the region’s main crop.
Camellia is an evergreen shrub, that looks beautiful with its shiny leaves and rose-like blossoms, but the locals farm the plant for the oil, which contains 90 per cent of the unsaturated fats that are essential to diets in the area.
Ye Ping, branch secretary for the local Village Party, told China Daily: “Camellia seeds that are scattered on the ground bake in the sunshine for nearly a month before we start shucking off the rinds and grind them in the stone mill.”
As well as nourishment, the oils have become a major source of income for the mountain communities.
Hundreds of years ago, their predecessors travelled a route that was to become known as the Camellia Oil Path. Laden with produce, they would negotiate the tricky mountain roads in the hope of trading the oil for food and other necessities with bazaars camped on the plains.
“The ancient path connects the village with the outside world. We can reach Jinhua, Lishui and Wenzhou through this path,” Ye said.
He stated that it was important to keep the area’s traditions alive and after a long hard day in the field he often liked to lean on the trunks of the trees, just as his grandfather would have done before him.
Camellia oil could make the perfect memento of a holiday to China and is sold in 400 year-old stalls to tourists who have made the journey to Zhangshan.
Holidaymakers may even wish to cultivate their own camellia plants, as the Daily Mail recently said they could give a winter garden a much-needed dash of colour.