Butterfly Pea Flower (Clitoria ternatea): Everything You Need to Know
I think the Butterfly Pea Flower must be one of our most exquisite and useful edible flowers. Its stunning blue flowers create a dazzling display in gardens while also giving us many health benefits.
I just love this flower and its one of my top 11 easiest edible flowers to grow. In this post I want to share with you everything you need to know about this wonderful butterfly pea flower plant.
While the plant is a common ornamental in tropical gardens, many are still surprised to find out that the showy bright blue blooms are very much edible!
It has many well documented health benefits and has been used in Asian cultures for centuries. I will also share how to use the mesmerizing flowers in the kitchen, and give you some helpful growing tips.
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The Butterfly Pea Flower is a Fascinating Flower of Beauty and Functionality
Clitoria ternatea, is also known as the Blue Butterfly Pea, Blue Pea or Asian Pigeonwings. It is renowned for its edible blooms that feature a brilliant deep blue color and butterfly-like appearance. In my opinion its one of the most striking flowers you can eat!
This plant is endemic and native to southern Asia, but is now common in places such as Africa, Australia and parts of America.
What Does the Blue Butterfly Plant Look Like?
- It is a hardy, fast growing, evergreen perennial vine or creeper that bears solitary vivid-blue blooms along the delicate runners.
- The vine stem is surrounded by bright-green compound leaves that have three alternate tapered leaflets.
- The unique butterfly-shaped flowers are celebrated for their distinct shape and intensely vibrant deep blue color. This is contrasted by a light white to yellow markings in the centres, making them some of the showiest edible flowers you can find!
- These flowers can also be found in mauve and white but they are no where near as striking as the blue flowers.
- Clitoria Ternatea is perfect for growing along fences or on a trellis and will provide you with a consistently stunning display.
- Although it enjoys regular watering it is drought resistant and requires little maintenance.
- Despite its delicate composition it is very resilient towards many common pests and diseases.
Butterfly Pea Flower - A Plant Used for Soil Improvement
The butterfly pea flower is not only sought after for its beauty and natural health benefits, but it also has a part to play in soil-improvement practices.
It is a legume, and its roots form a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria which results in nitrogen fixing and improving soil quality.
This is in alignment with its other pea family members who are well known for their nitrogen fixing properties.
Isn’t it an amazing plant!
Butterfly Pea Flower Benefits
The benefits provided by the Butterfly Pea Flower have been studied a lot more in recent years. Its various nutritional and health benefits, particularly in its vivid flowers are becoming well documented in modern studies.
It has been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as well as in traditional Chinese medicine.
The plant is renowned for its production of high amounts of antioxidant compounds which creates its striking flower colors.
These compounds, known as anthocyanins, have many health-promoting benefits while the intense colors are used to dye many foods and drinks in the kitchen.
Nutritional Benefits of Butterfly Pea Flower
Blue Butterfly peas are nutritionally rich in antioxidants like anthocyanin, ternatins, and other types found in superfoods like cherries, berries, and red wine.
The flowers are also a great source of flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin which assist with heart health and overall well-being.
They contain vitamins A and C and essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and more!
Medicinal Benefits of Butterfly Pea Flower
Considered to be a nootropic, the plant has traditionally been used to improve cognitive functions by assisting with memory, creativity, and stress relief.
Its high content of vitamins and minerals offers potential benefits for eye, skin, and hair health. The concentrated source of antioxidants can help to combat oxidative stress, promote overall health and reduce blood sugar levels.
Butterfly pea flower is said to have excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the presence of essential compounds like p-coumarin acid and delphinidin glucoside. These beneficial nutrients can also assist with fighting viruses and infections while aiding in overall joint health.
There has been an increased amount of scientific studies carried out in recent years which have reconfirmed these findings within the modern medical environment.
Butterfly Pea Flower Uses
What Does Butterfly Pea Flower Taste Like?
I have eaten this pretty flower straight from the garden and it really doesn’t have much taste at all. If anything, it’s a bit like green tea, a little earthy but really quite bland.
Butterfly Pea Flower Cocktails and Mocktails
Butterfly pea flower has also become very popular with modern mixologists to create specialty cocktails and mocktails. You can have a lot of fun playing with the color properties of this flower!
Butterfly pea flower cocktails are easy to make and can be enhanced with many spirits and cordials to enjoy with family and friends.
How to Make Butterfly Pea Flower Tea
Butterfly Pea Flower Tea is so simple to make – there are only 2 ingredients: water and flowers! You can use either fresh or dried flowers, they are both effective.
Now, the number of flowers you use will depend on the intensity of color you are looking for. The more flowers, the darker the color. I usually use about a handful of flowers as I enjoy the deep bluey purple color.
You can drink this tea hot or cold. It is a very popular iced drink in Thailand, where they enjoy it with ice and some added honey, lemon, lemongrass or mint.
What Makes Butterfly Pea Flower Change Color?
Now a not so well kept secret about the butterfly pea flower drink is its ph dependant natural colourant. This means that when you change the ph balance of the liquid it will change color!
Thanks to the high abundance of polyacylated anthocyanins known as ternatins in the flowers, the color of these vibrant flowers can easily be extracted by hot water or alcohol.
Butterfly Pea Flower infused drinks can be enriched and changed by adding acidity (like lemon), creating a magical color transformation in teas, cocktails, and mocktails alike!
So add in some lemon or anything that is acidic and the liquid will change to a pink!
Cooking with Blue Pea Flowers
The flowers can be used as a natural food colouring agent that can add that lovely vibrant deep-blue color to various foods like rice, eggs, dumplings, ice creams, cakes and much more!
Flowers can also be frozen in ice cubes to be included in refreshing beverages, punch bowls, or cocktails.
Using Blue Pea Flower in Cosmetics
Butterfly pea flower is commonly used in many natural cosmetics products for its effectiveness in everything from skin serums to shampoos.
Many soap, lotion, and makeup brands use butterfly pea to color their products and offer potential skincare benefits thanks to the concentration of minerals and microproteins.
How to Grow Butterfly Pea Flower
Butterfly pea flower loves the sun! It needs lots of bright direct light for at least 6 to 10 hours a day.
The ideal soil for this species is fertile, slightly sandy, and well-draining. A soil pH level of about 6.0 to 8.0 is preferred.
Being a native of the tropics, the plant prefers warm, humid growing conditions and is a perennial. If you live in a temperate climate where winters are cold, then it can be grown as an annual, but it will not survive the cold.
Once established it can become invasive and will climb through ad across anything in its path! It is best contained on a trellis or some kind of structure where it is free to clamber.
Propagating Your Butterfly Pea Plant
You can grow the blue pea by sowing seeds but its probably easiest to propagate using cuttings from established plants.
Simply use your gardening shears to take an older, woodier portion of the vine that is about 5 inches long
Remove the lower leaves then dip the bottom of the cuttings in some rooting hormone.
Prepare a container or hole in the ground with quality potting soil then plant the cutting into the mix, watering afterwards.
Keep the soil slightly moist then cuttings should root within only 3 weeks.
While this species can grow well in different soil types, it does prefer enriched soil that is well-draining.
Wrap Up on Everything You Need to Know About the Butterfly Pea Flower (Clitoria ternatea)
So, there you have it, everything you need to know to make the most of your butterfly pea flower. Whether for its fabulous mesmerising bright blue flowers, its culinary uses or its health benefits, , there’s certainly a lot to love about this spectacular species!
I hope you feel inspired to start growing your own plant so you can also take advantage of all the health benefits and the beautiful floral displays that this plant can give you.
With its rich wide-ranging benefits as a traditional medicine and food, it’s no wonder that it has become such a popular plant to grow in tropical regions.
Not to mention its fun color changing properties!