German-born Julia Hammond is the founder of Daheim Manufaktur, the communal start-up kitchen in Kreuzberg.
When conventional cleaning products used in her kitchen started to aggravate her asthma, Julia decided to explore alternatives that would not compromise the professional hygiene standards required at Daheim.
She started fermenting her own cleaning vinegars with leftover peels and fallen fruit from a local beekeeper. Soon, friends were asking for bottles too, and so her new label Berliner Zauberkraut was born.
I stopped by her enchanting space on Dieffenbachstraße, to chat a little about the magic behind her vinegars, modern-day rituals and old-world lore.
WHAT DOES ZAUBERKRAUT MEAN?
“Translated, it means ‘magic herb’. I use local herbs in my cleaning products that have–according to legend–traditionally been used by witches in Germany. These give each product a magic power. If you just believe in it.”
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE MAGIC BEHIND IT AND HOW IT’S ROOTED IN NATURE.
“I have always been fascinated with witches and the legends surrounding them. Growing up in the catholic Bavarian countryside, we still celebrated seasonal rituals. We were told a lot of ghost and witches stories and had some old Kräuterweiber (herbal women) selling healing herbs in the city square.
These old women fascinated me, and as a kid I was convinced they must be witches. That magic is something that stuck with me since then, something I could escape and lose myself in. I wanted to bring this magic into my home products, as cleaning is a daily ritual we still practise without realising its effects. We are surrounded by all these magic plants in Berlin, and have forgotten the power of most of them: Linden blossoms, Mugwort, Stinging nettle…”
HERE AT YUN WE ARE FASCINATED WITH THE CONCEPT OF BALANCE. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY?
“For me, balance is harmony. And my every day life is very much built on it. I am foremost a mother to a 5-year-old girl and two cats. So my everyday life is built around my family at its core. To be able to run my kitchen and work on my home brand, I need to make sure my family is looked after first. Secondly, I need to ensure my kitchen is running smoothly, and all members are able to work. If they are happy, I am happy. Once these 2 parts work, I can make time to tend to my own products for Berliner Zauberkraut, which I love doing. If one piece wobbles everything falls, if all goes smoothly, it’s perfect – everything is connected.”
I THINK THE CONCEPT REALLY SUITS YOUR APPROACH TO CIRCULARITY. MAYBE YOU CAN EXPLAIN HOW YOU PUT THIS INTO PRACTICE AT DAHEIM & BERLIN SAUBERKRAUT?
“I try to run my communal kitchen as circular and sustainable as possible. As mentioned, I turn fruit peel and fruit waste from our food producers into cleaning vinegar, which is used for the kitchen hygiene.
This way, I can re-use a waste product instead of having to buy harmful cleaners in plastic bottles. I also collect, filter and recycle cooking oil from our and other vegan kitchens which I turn into my dish soaps which are used to clean the dishes in a way that is safer for waterways.
The bottles, tins and jars left behind by our kitchen users come in handy to store all my dried herbs–some of which are mindfully collected in nature, some I grow myself. Other food scraps are being ‘composted’ in a Bokashi box which turns bio waste into nutritious plant food, which I then spread in my herb garden or give back to nature in the wild. Again, it’s all connected and as much as we take from nature, we also need to think of ways of giving back, honour and protect it, so the balance is restored.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY RITUALS THAT BRING YOU INTO BALANCE?
“My everyday life with family and work is very busy and messy, so my rituals are small but important to me. I love to burn a beautiful scented candle or herbal incense at the end of a busy day. Scents are a magic little luxury for me and can envelop the whole room, clear the air and transport us into a different world.”
CAN YOU SHARE WITH US YOUR THOUGHTS AND VISIONS BEHIND THE HEXENKÜCHE COMMUNITY YOU STARTED?
“The Hexenküche Community is a collective of Berlin herbalists, alchemists and makers who all share a mutual love for plants and an emphasis on nature. When Covid-19 hit in spring 2020 a lot of these herbalists were not able to share their knowledge and creations through workshops or events any more, so I called on them to set up a joint pop-up shop at my kitchen space. It was initially a way to support local makers through a hard time. It grew into something bigger and more beautiful than I could have expected. The Hexenküche (Witch’s kitchen) is now a regular pop-up shop with up to 14 (and growing) makers, a lovely fermented herbal bar and magic seasonal rituals.”
HOW DID YOU COME TO LEARN SO MUCH ABOUT LOCAL HERBS? DOES YOUR FASCINATION STEM FROM CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES, OR IS IT SOMETHING THAT CAME ABOUT IN YOUR LATER YEARS?
“Growing up between fields and trees in the Bavarian countryside, without any of today’s media entertainment, we kids were playing freely every day until Abendbrot (supper). We learnt about the crops that were planted around us and the herbs and Unkraut (weeds) growing beside them.
We stole corncobs, ate daisies, sucked honey from clover blossoms and rubbed camomile on our scratches when we fell.
My grandfather was an agriculturist and had a beautiful flower and herb garden, where we hid between the giant sunflowers. He and my Mum could tell every bird by their song and every tree by its leaves. Herbs and plants have always been part of my life. Without me necessarily knowing them all by name, I grew up knowing them in spirit.”
HOW DO YOU THINK WE CAN ENGAGE WITH NATURE TO BRING MORE BALANCE INTO OUR LIVES?
“Nature needs no effort, it is there on our doorstep, and we just need to acknowledge and embrace it. Sit in a park, watch flora and fauna closely, taking your time to get submerged in it. Grow plants or herbs from seed on your window sill or balcony. You don’t have to be an expert on every herb or tree, stick to a few that speak to you, and you will start recognising them in different places. It’s like making a new friend that pops up again and again.”