By Tatiana Pietrzak
The deep blue indigo flower, Aparajita, looks like female genitalia. This is why German botanist explorer Johann Philipp Breyre gave it the Latin genus name Clitoria (as in clitoris). He found it in its original terrain on Ternate Island, East Indonesia in the 1800s, although traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines had been using it for centuries. It is also known as the Blue Butterfly Pea Vine, Asian pigeonwings, and Conch Shell flower, among other names in different countries. It spread across South East Asia and other continents such as Africa, Australia and the Americas. In India it is considered a holy flower and is used in daily puja rituals.
The Aparajita flower grows in the wild on the outskirts of forests or near riverbanks. It has also been cultivated to grow on fences or trellises. It is extremely beautiful as an ornament, but many also use it as a tea and in recipes. It makes a brilliant Indigo blue tea which is mild and sweet to the taste. In some counties, such as Thailand, it is fried. Other countries use it as a natural food coloring for rice and baked goods. Some also use it for salads and decorating plates. Whichever way it is used, it is always a stunning attraction in cuisine.
In Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine it is considered a brain booster, enhancing memory. It is also used as a formula for its anti-stress and calming properties. It can also fight off depression.
Aparajita also has pods that are cooked and used in a traditional Filipino dish. Because it has pods, it is considered a legume and is nitrogen fixing to the soil. This makes it good for the soil and for other plants to grow. It is a perennial herbaceous plant with bright green oval-shaped leaves. It requires little care when cultivated.
Interestingly enough, there are no sales of this in East Indonesia. The family of Ternate still grow it but only use it for home purposes. So growing this flower will keep it alive and add splendid delight to every culinary foodies plate. You can find seeds and dried flowers on amazon.com
Aparajita Tea for two cups
20 flowers, dried or fresh
1 stick fresh lemongrass, (may substitute half a lime or a quarter lemon
3 cups fresh water
Soak flowers, lemongrass or lime/lemon in water for 2 hours until brilliant blue. Strain and boil to make tea. Chill for a cooling refreshing drink.
1 ½ cups rice
Water for rinsing
3 cups water for cooking
Rinse rice 2-3 times. Boil in 3 cups of water until soft and tender (30 minutes to one hour depending on your altitude. I live at 7000 ft, so it takes longer). Or use a rice cooker. After it is finished in the rice cooker allow it to sit on warm for 20 to 30 minutes.