WHAT'S IN A NAME?
This special flower is scientifically known as the as clitoria ternatea. It is said that it was given its genus name ‘clitoria’ due to its resemblance to the female genitalia.
Its other common names are asian pigeonwings, bluebellvine and cordofan pea, as well as the non-english names; Aprajita in Hindi, อัญชัน (An Chan) in Thai and Bunga Telang in Malay.
The butterfly pea flower is often found in tropical countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, although it has been found all along the equatorial belt.
Over the years, different cultures have found varying uses for this versatile plant, many of which are being researched today to be applied in the modern world.
Before blue coloured smoothie bowls and blue matcha lattes, the butterfly pea flower was often used in South East Asia where locals would steep the flowers to produce the blue colour extract. It is then mixed in with water to give traditional rice dishes, a blue twist, much like the blue smoothie bowls we see today.
Nasi Lemak and Nasi Kerabu are popular traditional dishes to make with the butterfly pea flower, and recently, desserts like the sticky rice and mango are also sporting a new blue hue.
Clitoria ternatea has a rich history within Ayurvedic medicine which has been practiced in India for centuries. The extracts of the butterfly pea flower was often used as an ingredient in ‘Medhya Rasayana’, a rejuvenating nootropic herbal formulation to improve cognitive function, boost memory and to treat anxiety and depression.
Traditionally, the butterfly pea flower petals were steeped in hot water to create a natural blue dye, which was then used to add colour to fabrics. Researchers are now finding ways to extract blue pigments at a commercial level.
Butterfly pea flower has had a long history with agriculture, it was grown as forest legume at first but farmers then noticed that it also improved the soil fertility which improved crop yields such as maize and wheat.
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