clitoral bush // butterfly pea // blue pea

order: fabales
family: fabaceae
genus: clitoria
species: ternatea

First Story

20 august 2015

This plant, native to tropical Asia, is known by many different names. My first encounter with the plant is through a video series by Gordon Ramsay on his culinary discovery trip around South East Asia. The article that links to the video says: "Gordon Ramsay touches a Malaysian woman's clitoral bush". Unabashed, the hostess introduced Gordon to her kitchen plant proclaiming prosaically its name only to have Gordon jokingly asked her if her husband ever picks her bush. The two were apparently very amused by it. In the video, she used the flowers of the plant to give a blue hue to her rice. That's striking. I wondered how I didn't know it before, having lived in that part of the world for so long. After watching that video, I immediately took note of the plant.

This year, I intentionally cut down on the amount of new acquisition. Among the few new plants, this is one that I grew from seeds, which are locally available. Growing it from seeds is easy and needs no further explanation. The plant is a short-lived perennial, twining climber. Its growth is not very aggressive. Only 4 months into growing, it started to set flowers after flowers. They are blue and have a shape that is very distinctive of the pea family. Only with the case of clitoral bush, the flower is upside-down, with the protruding tube at the top. People see clitoris in them. The flowers open during the day and close during the night and repeat for 2 consecutive days. If you don't harvest the flowers, they develop into flat bean pods, which are as per my research also edible when young. The leaves are likewise as can be expected. Soft pinnate leaves of mostly 5 leaflets droop at night and become rigid again by day. Its roots are said to also form rhizobial nodules that fix nitrogen in the soil. The plant seems to be a really carefree, something I can recommend to beginners. It does best in full sun but also thrives at any bright location. Water and fertilise as usual. I am most likely going to overwinter my plants. If this is not an option, you should definitely leave some seed pods to mature and save them to start new plants in spring.

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