Butterfly Pea



The Butterfly Pea is a climbing plant1 whose blue flowers are commonly used as a food dye, particularly among the Peranakans (Straits Chinese).

Description
Although it can be found growing in the wild in our region, the butterfly pea is believed to have originated from South America and Asia. It is believed to have been brought to India in the 17th century; then to Europe and much later to the tropics. It belongs to the sub-family Papilionaceae of the family Leguminosae and is a perennial climber. With pinnate leaves extending to five to nine leaflets, it often grows into a thick foliage. But the climber is commonly cultivated for its attractive azure flowers with winged petals and light markings, which only last 24 hours. Its flat pods pop black seeds when mature.2

Usage
Culinary uses
The blue flowers are commonly used as dyes for colouring confectionaries.3 In Malaysia, it is used in Malay and Peranakan dishes such as nasi kerabu, pulut inti, kuih tekan, pulut tai tai and the savoury nyonya zhang (rice dumplings) which have a tinge of blue added to it. In Thailand, it is used in a drink known as nam dok anchan. The blue drink is served with lime juice and pandan flavoured syrup.  The butterfly pea flowers are eaten as vegetables in countries such as India and the Philippines, while in Burma, they are dipped in batter and fried before serving. The flowers are also used as garnishing in salads.4

Medicinal uses
Butterfly pea roots are used in ayurvedic medicine in India.5 In Java, the plants with white flowers are used for traditional medicines. The leaves are used as poultices and the juice of the flowers is used to treat inflamed eyes. In the Philippines, the seeds are used in poultices to treat swollen joints.6

Fodder crop
Butterfly pea foliage is edible and is used to feed sheep and goats.7

Other uses
As a dye, it is popular among the health conscious who do not appreciate artificial colouring. The dye can also be used as a litmus while the plant itself is useful as a matting.8 In Australia, the butterfly pea, also known as blue pea, is valued as fodder because of its higher protein content. It also increases the nitrogen level of soil.9

Variant Names
Common names: Butterfly pea, pigeon wings, blue pea.10
Scientific name: Clitoria ternatea.11
Malay name: Bunga Telang,12 Bunga Biru,13 Kachang Telang.14



Author
Timothy Pwee



References
1.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). Clitorea. In A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 596. (Call no. RSING 634.909595 BUR)
2.
Lam, P. S. (1997, July 5). Sweet purpose to the Blue Pea flower. The New Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
3.
Beauty of true blue blooms to enhance your garden. (1998, February 14). The New Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
4.
Yim, E. (2010, June 19). Flowers to dye for. New Straits Times, p. 12; Plant library: Butterfly pea. (2012, January 19). The National. Retrieved from ProQuest Central via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
5.
Yim, E. (2010, June 19). Flowers to dye for. New Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
6.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). Clitorea. In A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 596. (Call no. RSING 634.909595 BUR)
7.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). Clitorea. In A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 596. (Call no. RSING 634.909595 BUR); Yim, E. (2010, June 19). Flowers to dye for. New Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
8.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). Clitorea. In A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 596. (Call no. RSING 634.909595 BUR)
9.
Beauty of true blue blooms to enhance your garden. (1998, February 14). The New Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
10.
Beauty of true blue blooms to enhance your garden. (1998, February 14). The New Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
11.
Ismail Saidin. (1993). Bunga-bungaan Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka, p. 142. (Call no.: RSEA q635.909595 ISM)
12.
Ismail Saidin. (1993). Bunga-bungaan Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka, p. 142. (Call no.: RSEA q635.909595 ISM)
13.
Lam, P.S. (1997, July 5). Sweet purpose to the Blue Pea flower. The New Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
14.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). Clitorea. In A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 596. (Call no. RSING 634.909595 BUR)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Centrosema--Singapore
Plants
Cookery>>Food
Coloring matter in food
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Horticulture>>Flowers and ornamental plants
Nature>>Plants