Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pictures of my Butterfly Pea

I was on my way back from work and passed a house with a roadside herb garden. The owner of the house was weeding the patch and we had a little chat about gardening and the herbs that he was growing. He invited me into his compound where there were more interesting plants growing there. Before I left, he broke a sprig of terragon and gave it to me.

When I got home, I planted the spring in a little bit of soil and capped the plastic container with another transparent disposable container like a temporary terrarium. I figured that since the sprig had no roots, it was necessary to conserve moisture and what better way than to 'seal' the moisture in. The leaves can then continue to make the food that the plant needs while the roots take the time to sprout. It certainly beat soaking the cutting in water. The results was proof that I was correct in my hunch. That little cutting of terragon has since multiplied into a few healthy plants.

After this success, I applied the technique to cuttings of rosemary and oregano given by a friend. These worked equally well. 

However, I am most happy about the Butterfly Pea(Bunga Telang) that I had planted from pods which I found by the roadside. To me, it is the most beautiful flower in the world. When I was a boy, I observed my grandmother extracting a glorious blue color from the flower. I was enchanted by the blue coloring and to this day, my favorite nonya kuehs are those with the blue coloring like Kueh Salat, Nonya Rice Dumpling and Pulut Inti. 

My grandmother was a traditional Peranakan who dressed in sarong kebaya dress with kerosang. She made the most delicious dishes and snacks. The memories of those days are clearly etched into my mind. I recall her feeding me Tapeh, a sweet fermented rice wine and was already a coffee addict even as a child. She was definitely instrumental in making me love good food.

The Butterfly Pea(Clitoria Ternatea) was named by Rumphius. He seemed to have followed the example of Carl Linnaeus, the originator of the scientific classification system of plants and animals(taxonomy). Apparently Linnaeus had this penchant for naming things in this curious manner. Although some of the names are controversial, I am glad that the names have prevailed simply because they show that scholarship need not be dry and dusty. Rumphius was a botanist employed by the East India Company and the flower was probably found on the Indonesian island of Ternate. The rich flora and fauna is documented in The Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russell Wallace who came up with the Theory of Evolution independent of Charles Darwin. 

The Butterfly Pea is a legume and such plants actually fertilize the soil that they are planted on because the bacteria in the roots of the plants fix nitrogen. I intend to verify this by planting the seeds right among the herbs to see if they thrive on the enriched soil.

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