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  • Writer's pictureNancy Redfeather

Clitoria Ternatea: A Lovely Lady for the Garden and the Kitchen

Deep blue indigo colored flowers are few and far between in the world of nature, and the Blue Butterfly Pea Vine flower is in a category all by itself! The German Botanist Johann Philipp Breyne discovered and named the plant while on expeditions to Ternate Island in Indonesia in the 1800s. He was a contemporary of Charles Darwin and both were working on the ideas of natural selection and evolution of the species. The Portuguese name for the plant is Fula Criqua meaning flower of creation. Filipino’s call it Pukingan and the small green pods are cooked and prepared into a traditional dish. Malaysian’s call it Bunga Telang. Other names are Asian Pigeonwings, Blue bell Vine, and Darwin Pea.

The flowers of this vine have the shape of human female genitalia, hence the Latin name of the genus, Clitoria. As indicated by its Latin name, the Blue Butterfly Pea Vine originated from Ternate island and has spread across Southeast Asia and other continents. There, it normally grows wild in the outskirts of forests or near riverbanks. But it can also be tamed, and is also a beautiful ornamental plant grown on a fence or sturdy trellis. As a legume, it is also planted as a nitrogen fixer. It is a perennial herbaceous plant, with oval shaped leaves. It grows as a vine or creeper, doing well in moist, neutral soil, but can withstand drought.

The most striking feature of this plant is its vivid deep blue indigo flowers and it’s culinary and medicinal uses. The young pods are edible fresh when cooked. The flowers are also edible and have a mild, sweet taste. They can also be fried. A bright blue tea can also be prepared from the flowers, and the flowers can also be used as a natural food coloring in other recipes (usually rice). Traditionally, Ternate people use Bunga Telang as an herbal medicine considered to have great healing purposes. No parts of the plant are currently sold on the market in eastern Indonesia, and the family who first cultivated it still grows it but uses it only for home consumption. Because the culinary and health purposes of this plant are not promoted in its region of origin, it is being lost from the shared heritage of the area.

For Landscaping:

* Covering a Trellis used to divide space in a garden

* Grown on a fence to provide privacy

For Culinary:

* Blue Flowers used fresh and whole in salads and to decorate plates

* Blue Flowers used to flavor and color drinks, cakes, rice, etc. deep blue!

* Young green pods are cooked and eaten.

* A traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, Clitoria Ternatea has been consumed for centuries as a memory enhancer, brain booster, anti-stress and calmative agent.

* Flowers can be dried and used in cooking to color desserts and make a strikingly vibrant blue tea!

For Forage:

In New Zealand, it is planted in a field and used as a forage for animals after it has been grown for one year. It is very high in protein, and nitrogen fixing for the soil.

Blue Butterfly Tea Recipe:

To make tea from Butterfly Pea flowers:

Simply steep 10 flowers, fresh or dried, in a cup of hot water, let sit 15 minutes.

When there is no color left in the petal, strain the liquid and discard the flowers. You will be left with an amazing indigo colored tea.

Butterfly-pea flower tea commonly contains dried lemongrass or mint, which can be added during steeping to adjust the flavor.

The tea can also be consumed with some drops of lime juice to create a sweet ‘n’ sour flavor and turn the luminous indigo tea a deeper purple color.

Tip: Mix the tea with fuchsia Roselle hibiscus and the tea will turn a bright red color. Roselle Hibiscus seed is also available on the Hawai’i Seed Growers Network Marketplace.

To learn the medicinal benefits and see the research behind them:

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