Uzbekistan - Our Origins

The Legend of Samarkand Bread

Many years ago (or so the story goes), the Emir of Bukhara tried a loaf from the Samarkand region of Uzbekistan. It was good – in fact, it was better than any bread he had tried before. The Emir was obsessed, and ordered his master bakers to recreate it.

But despite their best efforts, the bakers failed. No matter what they tried, they couldn’t make their bread as soft, flavourful, and delicious as the Samarkand loaves. Desperate, they imported Samarkand flour and Samarkand water and even brought a tandyr oven from Samarkand, but each time, the Emir just shrugged. There was still something missing. 

Eventually, the master bakers were forced to conclude that the secret of the Samarkand bread was the air itself – pure, unpolluted, and fresh. As the air from Samarkand couldn’t be imported, they told the Emir the sad news – only Samarkand and its bakers could produce the bread of his dreams.

We can’t promise the story is a hundred per cent true, but we can vouch for Samarkand’s incredible fertility. Much of our range is still grown in the mountainous Samarkand region – including our very special sour cherries. Because the area is still mostly untouched by urbanisation, pollution, and mass development, farming continues as it has for centuries, with local communities still tilling the same soil and breathing the same wonderful air.

Sour Cherries Grown in the Untouched Mountains of Uzbekistan

Cherries love the sun, which makes Samarkand the perfect place to cultivate them, and there are few sights more beautiful than the cherry trees rustling in the wind, in the rolling mountains and plunging valleys that give the region its unique aesthetic. 

Farmers use traditional methods to harvest the cherries when they are ripe, before gently sun-drying them to preserve their natural flavour. Finally, they are hand-picked and pitted without any added adulterants or oils. The result? In our opinion, the best sour cherries in the world.

PlantLife's Origins in the Samarkand Region

But our roots in Samarkand go deeper than just the soil. Before PlantLife, there was Lemberona, a plant-based food company with a mission. Lemberona was founded by local visionary Elmira and driven by her purpose of bringing delicious, natural, and ethically sourced plant-based produce to the people of Europe. Elmira’s knowledge and insight are responsible not only for the revolutionary processing facility where our products are sorted, cleaned, and prepared, but for the vision that drives us to this day.

We have deep ties to the area’s agricultural communities and have actively worked to transform lives through investment in and collaboration with farming cooperatives. We started working with cooperatives in the area in the early 90s. Today, we source from two cooperatives (the first Fairtrade cooperatives established in Central Asia) with 350 farmer families (altogether 2000 people). 

PlantLife's Efforts in Uzbekistan

We have also invested in agricultural training to help ensure consistent yields and higher profit margins for local people. We are proud of the ongoing improvements in the towns and villages, as steady investment, training, and better equipment have made the prospects of the agricultural community of Samarkand almost as sunny as the region itself

Finally, to contribute to the area’s natural beauty and fertile soil, we’ve planted over 300,000 trees on the slopes of Samarkand’s mountains which has helped with biodiversity and mean that we are now certified carbon-negative. 

There’s just one wish we haven’t made come true – that the Emir could have tried our sour cherries. That would have put a smile on his face!