Butterfly Pea Flower Guide
Everything you need to know about Clitoria Ternatea and Bluechai flowers
Why is it that you often find yourself moving in an emotional wheel on confronting anything blue, particularly if it is a natural blue? To begin with there is hardly any blue in nature except the two horizons, namely the sky and the water, and this only serves to enhance the mysticism associated with this color. Because it is rare, anything that is naturally blue is bound to catch your eye and this explains the global fascination that the butterfly blue pea flower enjoys.
Not very big in size, this flower would probably have been lost in oblivion had it not been blue in color. As you explore the rural corners of South East Asian countries, it is just a matter of time before you come across a hedge or a garden randomly dotted with these small folded drops of blue. If you are not aware of their identity, a sense of curiosity is inevitable and soon you would find yourself quizzing the locals about these floral wonders. Soon much of the curiosity would be replaced by a sense of amazement when you realize that there is so much more to this flower than what meets the eye.
Its blue color notwithstanding, the butterfly blue pea flower is a storehouse of nutrients all of which have the capacity to improve your health in multiple ways and this is reason enough for the locals to value it way beyond its blue color. Of course, the ability of the flower to release its color on being steeped is also an aspect that people in Asia have capitalized on and results are evident in form of widespread use of natural blue in a variety of culinary preparations. So overall, it is courtesy of both internal and external attributes that the butterfly blue pea flower forms an integral part of Asian culture and is revered by the locals.
What is it that sets Bluechai flowers apart?
The obvious answer would be its blue color, based on the premise that the first impression is always the one that is not just the most crucial but is also one that lasts the longest.
When you look at the butterfly blue pea flower, it gives you the so-called blues, meaning you cannot help but fall under its spell and take a long time to recover. Owing to this color being elusive where nature and food are concerned, spotting it in a dish or in your surrounding is sure to trigger a sense of attraction. Blue Curacao is an example that presents itself considering the immense popularity that this blue drink enjoyed during the 1970s’ but then its synthetic touch is no comparison to the natural and healthy blue derived from the butterfly blue pea flower.
Unlike the blueberries, which are also naturally blue but so rare that their arrival is a much awaited event, the butterfly blue pea flower is commonly found in countries like Thailand and Burma. It is only when you dig deeper that the exotic nature of this flower becomes apparent both in terms of coloring as also in terms of health benefits.
Therefore, as far as natural blue is concerned, butterfly blue pea flower is the only readily available and easily accessible source in nature and this is itself is a good enough reason to set it apart in a class of its own.
Which plant does this butterfly pea flower bloom on?
Clitoria ternatea, as this herbaceous plant is scientifically known, is the butterfly blue pea plant of the Fabaceae family which bears these indigo-colored flowers of the same name. It is basically a vine which thrives in tropical and equatorial climes, hence explaining the abundance of these flowers in South East Asian countries. Moist and neutral soil condition is all that this plant requires to flourish and having taken root, it is just a matter of time before the sapling grows into a full-fledged creeper that can withstand even the most drastic weather changes.
Although the plant is perennial in nature, its mesmerizing floral outgrowths last for only 24 hours wherein they blossom with the sunrise and wither away when the sun sets. Early morning is the best time for anyone wishing to enjoy the beauty of this flower in all its glory when its tongue is protruding out to receive as many glistening dew drops as possible. This is also the time when this flower should be picked for culinary and medicinal uses because it would be fresh and as a result would yield maximum benefits.
For those of you who have fallen in love with the butterfly blue pea flower, it is not so difficult to grow in your own yard and all you need to do is implement the following steps –
- You could start either with seeds or sapling of the butterfly blue pea creeper, both of which would need to be sowed in a suitable spot.
- What is most important is to find a suitable location for this plant to grow and to this effect the spot should be such that it falls under the full glare of the sun’s rays in the morning and receives shade from afternoon onward. While it is crucial for the young plant to receive adequate amount of sunlight in the morning for the flowers to bloom, in the afternoon it should remain protected from the glare which could cause wilting.
- Next factor which is equally crucial is the soil and vine of the butterfly blue pea grows best in soil that is rich in nutrients and drains well. Loam, peat and perlite are preferred varieties of soil although sand and clay also serve as viable options.
- Adequate water is a must for this plant to grow but that said, it should not be overwatered to the point of being flooded. Proper watering results in blooming of flowers and for you it implies harvesting a bumper crop of blue flowers every morning.
- Periodic trimming of the creeper during the growth phase ensures that it acquires a bushy appearance and produces more flowers rather than spreading in a scattered manner.
Requiring negligible maintenance, this plant will adorn your garden for many long years to come and provide you with an enviable harvest of butterfly blue pea flowers as long as its basic needs are met.
To What Does The Butterfly Blue Pea Flower Owe Its Therapeutic Abilities?
For anything to be labeled as ‘beautiful’ it is not just the external appearance which matters but also what lies within and to its credit the Asian Pigeonwing scores well in this regard too. As far as the butterfly blue pea flower is concerned, the goodness extends beyond mere looks to the deepest recesses wherein its components determine its capabilities.
It is often pointed out that it is not as much as how you look but what you are within that counts and in case of the butterfly blue pea flower, all the properties are attributed to its chemical composition. Having shaken out of the mesmerizing influence of its vibrant blue color, when you put this flower under a microscope, compounds that you would encounter are flavonoids, steroids, triterpenoids and most importantly anthocyanins, which are responsible for the flower being blue in color. Although the percentage composition of these compounds is not clear, a fact that has been established beyond doubt is that these are the sources of curative powers that have earned the flower renown the world over.
Provided as follows is a brief description of each of these compounds with the intention of explaining their contribution towards the medicinal properties of this flower –
Commonly found in several members of the fruit and vegetable family, flavonoids belong to the phenolic OH family of chemical compounds. Their presence in plants is manifested in several ways, most common of which is flouroscence and a distinct color in fruits and flowers which could range from a juicy red in case of berries to an enticing indigo in flowers. They also serve as a barrier that shields the plant from the harmful UV rays of the sun.
Health experts believe that one of the best ways to judge the nutrition value of any food is to check its flavonoid content and this is owing to the bioactive nature of these chemicals. Courtesy of being natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, they play a major role in determining the health of plants, animals and humans through multiple actions. While in fruits and vegetables it takes the form of phytonutrient and enhances nutritional value, in human beings it fortifies cardio and neurological health not to mention causing periodic detoxification.
Flavonoids also belong to the category of nutrients which dissolve easily in water and this explains as to why the butterfly blue pea flowers release color on being soaked in lukewarm water for a few minutes. When any flavonoid rich food is left in water, these compounds dissolve quickly and seep out as a result of osmosis taking their goodness as also their blue color with them.
Best described as organic compounds, steroids exist all across the plant, animal and fungi kingdoms and serve two basic functions of building cell membranes and regulating hormones. Although these have earned a reputation for boosting energy levels by a significant amount, they are not counted among typical sources of energy and are subject to metabolism and excretion.
Percentage in which steroids should be present in human body has long since been a subject of debate in various communities because while they serve as concentrated storehouses of energy, their presence beyond a certain limit could lead to other health problems. To this effect, steroids derived from plant sources are believed to be more effective and safer as compared to those which come from other sources and hence are preferred.
Butterfly blue pea flower contains steroids in amounts that are regarded as being safe as also effective and this in turn implies that consuming anything made from these flowers is likely to have a positive impact on the energy levels of the person. Like flavonoids, steroids also diffuse through cell membranes and do not have any long term influence owing to being easily digested and excreted.
Triterpenoids for the basis of steroids and the types found in plants have been known to boost immunity. Therefore, the ability of butterfly blue pea flower to improve immunity is attributed to the presence of these compounds.
Tasteless and odorless but definitely not colorless would be an ideal description of anthocyanins which are present nearly all parts of the plant. It is through a range of colors that anthocyanins manifest themselves and the shades may cover the entire length of the spectrum from red and orange to indigo, blue and purple. Given that the hue is a direct result of pH, the blue color of butterfly blue pea flower is indicative of a pH that is equal to or around the value 7.
What is important is to realize that this blue color imparted by anthocyanins is not just for show, it serves several other purposes too, primary among them being acting as a sun-screen and adopting the role of antioxidants. This explains why the use of butterfly blue pea flower in cooking is encouraged – every time you consume something laced with these flowers, you also imbibe antioxidants that flush out the free radicals from your system. Because sun’s rays and free radicals have been known to be carcinogenic, any extract of butterfly blue pea flower turns out to be a natural combatant of cancer causing factors.
Therefore, claims about the butterfly blue pea flower being a ‘Jack of all trades’ are indeed well-founded. Thanks to its chemical composition, this flower is a storehouse of nutrients all of which contribute towards fortifying the health of the person using it to create culinary wonders.
Impact on Health
True though it is that the most attractive aspect of the butterfly blue pea flower is its azure exterior, something that renders this flower truly interesting is the secret that it holds. Like every entity that holds a secret, the Asian Pigeonwing also appears to be discreet on the outside to the point that an ignorant onlooker would never guess as to what lies beneath. For you who is now aware of the constituents of this flower, understanding the fact that it holds the key to good health in many ways should be relatively easier.
Much of the health benefits accrued from this flower are attributed to its chemical composition, which in turn implies that every time you are offered this mesmerizing blue beverage, it should be accepted as nothing less than a cup of good health. Whether it is in form of an infusion, dessert, rice or dumplings, there are several ways in which you stand to benefit from it in terms of health, both internally as also externally.
Following are the aspects of health that you stand to accrue just by ensuring the presence of butterfly blue pea flower in your daily diet –
Improvement in eyesight and overall ophthalmic health
Eyes serve as windows through which you see the world around you and for you to be able to relish your surroundings to the fullest, it is imperative for these to be 100% fit. Unfortunately, our eyes are as prone to depreciation as any other machine, meaning as we grow older, a decline in functionality of the eye is but natural. You may have observed that your eyesight may be declining, thus facilitating a need for glasses or you might be finding it difficult to discern subtle details in the curtains of darkness.
While the impact of ageing on eyes is inevitable, it can definitely be slowed, especially when you have a natural agent like butterfly blue pea flower at your disposal. With every sip of its infusion, you are also consuming proanthocyanidin, a powerful antioxidant which has been known to ensure that the flow of blood to your eyes remains optimal. This is achieved by fortifying the capillaries and once these are built, you are bound to experience a significant improvement in your quality of vision, especially at night. An added benefit is that your eyes would not be as susceptible to cataracts as they otherwise would have been.
One of the reasons attributed to premature ageing of skin is glycation wherein the protein within your body suffers damage owing to excess sugar and causes your skin to age prematurely. In addition to having lost its glow, your skin is likely to develop wrinkles and you would appear much older than your actual age.
Is it truly possible for the butterfly pea flower to successfully overcome this condition? It so happens that this small, common and insignificant flower carries agents which can combat glycation courtesy of the presence of phenolics and flavonoids. Over a period of time, the rate of glycation will have reduced and results will manifest themselves in form of a glowing skin which would be free of wrinkles and devoid of symptoms of ageing.
Relief from Pain
Nothing causes ore discomfort than physical pain and this is the primary reason for the presence of multitude of pain killers in the market today. Before you embark on a shopping spree for pain killers, a choice that you would have to make would pertain to the product’s origin and there are two options in this regard, namely synthetic and natural. Manufactured analgesics are undoubtedly effective but carry the danger of side effects which have been known to cause more harm in the long run. ‘Natural’ is the way to go and the butterfly blue pea flower emerges as an easily accessible and affordable alternative.
Scientific research has revealed that an extract of butterfly blue pea flower, on being applied to an inflamed portion of the human body, brought down the swelling and pain within considerable limits. The fact that its impact is not just limited to external injuries but can also impact internal conditions like arthritis and muscular pain goes on to prove its veracity as a century-old traditional healing agent. Even more important is the fact that in addition to being natural, the extract of butterfly blue pea flower does not cause any side effects, thus emerging as the safest choice for overcoming pain.
Few species of flora are as blessed with a high concentration of antioxidants as the butterfly blue pea flower and this explains as to why consumption of this flower’s extract results in the user having gained a strong shield of protection. Antioxidants have been known to have a cleansing effect on the human body and the benefit of this on the body is multi-pronged. On one hand it flushes out the free radicals, thus minimizing chances of contracting cancer and on the other hand it detoxifies the body.
With all free radicals and toxins having been flushed out of the body, the result is a strengthened immune system which is capable of warding off illness without falling under undue duress.
DIY Hair Care
Application of butterfly blue pea flower extract on your hair would serve to thicken your mane through multiple actions. While on one hand the juice prevents existing hair strands from breaking, it soothes the scalp and in the process prompts sprouting of new hair. So just a few weeks after you might have started applying this extract you ought to be prepared to be surprised by a thick mane glowing with health and drawing envious glances from all around.
There is something in it for people who might be suffering the embarrassment of premature graying of hair. All you need to do is apply this extract on your scalp on a daily basis for prolonged duration and wait for the results to manifest in form of reduced graying.
Rejuvenating and Refreshing
At the end of the end after a long day’s work it is but natural for you to feel exhausted enough to crash and not feel like anything else. But does the evening feel the same after having gulped down a glass of blue tisane brewed from the Asian Pigeonwing?
Miraculous though it might sound, any concoction prepared from butterfly blue pea flower is amazingly refreshing and having sipped it, it is just a matter of time before you are back on your feet and ready to make the most of the evening. While this tranquilizing effect is ideal for overcoming stress and calming down frayed nerves, it could also be taken a step further to induce sedation in patients if the situation calls for it.
Butterfly Blue Pea – the plant
As a plant, the butterfly blue pea is coveted owing to its invaluable contribution in rendering the soil fertile and serving as fodder for cattle. When it comes to using extracts, it is not just the flower that provides a powerful extract but even the leaves and stem provide a strong curative infusion. Roots and seeds of this plant are powdered and administered to patients suffering from high fever to provide immediate relief.
So having flower petals of the butterfly blue pea flower or even the plant itself is indeed a blessing in many ways.
Why do you eat? Nutrition would be the obvious answer but it is not always the driving point, particularly when you are inclined to try new and exotic dishes about which you know virtually nothing. While it is true that nutrition is foremost in your mind as far as food is concerned, at times it is perfectly natural to relegate this factor to the backseat, especially when you find yourself face-to-face with dishes that you have never seen before. Curiosity is what comes into play here and it drives you to sample a culinary creation, how much ever weird it might seem.
To this effect, anything blue on the table is perfect not just for attracting attention but also for inviting a barge of questions, mostly directed towards the nature of the dish and how it was prepared. However, not every kind of blue found on the spread is derived from natural sources – many times chefs take advantage of this attraction and add artificial coloring to food just for the sake of giving that exotic touch. This is where you need to be careful.
As far as food is concerned, blue that is derived from natural sources is fit for consumption because it is not likely to cause any reaction or side effects. Sources of natural blue color are few and far between but one that has managed to steal most of the limelight is the butterfly blue pea flower. Acknowledged the world over for its deep blue tinge, all it takes is careful handling of these flowers to ensure that the culinary wonder carries an azure hue without being harmful in any way.
In what ways can you use the Asian Pigeonwing in your kitchen? Following are some of the creations that you must try in order to create something exotic yet healthy –
Ethnic to Malaysia, blue rice is prepared by adding rice to the infusion of butterfly blue pea flowers. Locally known as ‘bunga telang’ these flowers are an affordable and sustainable alternative for acquiring the blue color as compared to more expensive and rarely available options like blueberries and purple cabbage.
For preparing blue rice, a handful of sun-dried butterfly blue pea flowers are soaked in lukewarm water for about 20 minutes. During that time much of the color will have seeped into the water, thus causing it to turn dark blue. You must then scoop them into your hands and squeeze them so as to extract as much color as possible. This water is then used for cooking rice in a rice cooker or any other vessel, the quantity being proportional to the quantity of rice being cooked. On being cooked, the rice carries a distinct blue tinge which immediately renders it more attractive as compared to its normal white versions.
Blue Chiffon Cake
For preparing a cake bearing a soothing blue touch, you would need to whisk eggs and sugar with lemon drops, vanilla essence and the blue extract of butterfly blue pea flowers. After all the ingredients have been beaten till they acquire a fluffy texture and folded repeatedly to the point of having combined seamlessly. The mixture is then poured into a chiffon tin and baked at optimum temperature till the cake is sufficiently cooked on the inside while maintaining a smooth surface. You would know that all your efforts have been worthy if on being sliced it is soft and spongy.
In the event that the cake is to be presented to guests, the top surface can be decorated with icing as also fresh butterfly blue pea flowers laid out in an artistic arrangement.
When a handful of butterfly blue pea flowers are soaked on tepid water and left standing for twenty minutes or so, the blue infusion which is formed is likely to have all the attributes that this flower is known for. On filtering the infusion, what you get is a vibrant blue infusion which you can flavor with sugar and sip like tea to benefit from its stimulating and refreshing properties.
If you are one of those who are averse to consuming sugar even in beverages, you could add a spoonful of honey to this extract and it would taste just as good. In fact, sipping it while it is warm could be nice but you can also have them chilled wherein they could serve as good substitutes for water on a hot summer day.
Experimenting even further, squeeze a few drops of lime into this solution and watch as the color transforms from blue to a mesmerizing purple right before your eyes. Isn’t it magic?
How about trying one more recipe? By soaking about a dozen butterfly blue pea flowers in 2 cups of tender coconut water, you would acquire a blue version of the same that you can serve chilled. Flavored though it is, it could be rendered further unique by adding a few pre-soaked basil seeds which also serve to transform the color. As opposed to the purple acquired by adding lemon, basil seeds have the tendency to cause the solution to turn into a more clearer blue.
The image on the right side is a Nonya (peranakan) dessert called Kueh Salat or Seri Muka. It’s a very delicious dessert that uses coconut milk, eggs and tapioca flour as well as pandan leaf for flavoring in the top layer and bottom layer is glutinous rice and coconut milk colored with blue peaflower.
Ever heard of Khanom Chan while touring Thailand? Well next time you hear this name, you would be aware that it is a pale purple cake having a single layer wherein the color is an outcome of butterfly blue pea extract being added to the batter prior to baking. Subsequent to having been baked, it takes on a beautiful pale purple hue which is so strongly reminiscent of sunrise.
Chaw Muang is a popular appetizer in Thailand and is best described as a dumpling prepared by steaming batter laced with blue extract and enclosing a filling, which could be sweet or savory depending on your preference.
Now that you know this flower as though it were your closest friend, it is time to put this knowledge into test by acquiring these flowers through various reliable sources and experimenting with them.