The Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans, Aka Sweet Olive, Osmanthus Olive Or Fragrant Olive, Is Grown For It’s Fragrance & For Eating.
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Osmanthus fragrans lives up to its name with flowers that are extremely fragrant. They remind me of juicy apricots and peaches. Often called the Fragrant Olive the shrub, or small tree, is an evergreen with a white, yellow or orange -yellow flower that hang in clusters. The one in the image is pure white and very fragrant. the photo was taken in East Devon on March 26th 2023. Various cultivars are available for gardens. I also recommend it for food forests.
Culinary uses of Osmanthus fragrans
Hailing from Asia, from the Himalayas to Japan, China, Thailand and Cambodia the plant is used in the cuisine of many of these countries.
The flowers and leaves can be harvested with the leaves being infused with green or black tea and consumed as Osmanthus tea. The flowers are used to produce a jam that can be bought in supermarkets or made at home. It’s an ingredient in Osmanthus cakes, soups, and a wine or liquor consumed in China. Alternatively the flowers are used as an ingredient in rice wine syrup.
Osmanthus wine is known as reunion wine in china and has great cultural significance.
Osmanthus black sugar can be bought online where is is described as “Yunnan osmanthus black sugar is golden, bright and beautiful. It is sweet and not greasy. It tastes mellow and delicious. Every mouthful is fragrant with osmanthus”. Every mouthful is also quite expensive, as is Osmanthus tea which can also be purchased online.
But why go online when we can grow it at home?
The video below is for Osmanthus Soup Balls With Rice Wine Syrup … two recipes in one.
Chinese Medicine & Insect Repellents
The leaves are use din India as an insect repellent to protect clothes. And in Chinese medicine the tea is used for it’s perceived anti-oxidative qualities.
James Sykes Gamble mentions Osmanthus timber in his 1922 book, A Manual of Indian Timbers: An Account of the Growth, Distribution, and Uses of the Trees and Shrubs of India and Ceylon, with Descriptions of Their Wood-structure. If you can’t find a hard copy the book has now been digitised.
Cultural Significance of Osmanthus
I’ve already mentioned reunion wine and its importance in China. But there’s more. In Chinese mythology Osmanthus fragrans grows on the moon where it was endlessly cut by Wu Gan
Chinese mythology held that a sweet osmanthus grows on the moon and was endlessly cut by Wu Gang to prevent its luxuriant growth from overshadowing the moon. It is an allegory for endless toil. In other versions of the story the tree is the evergreen cassia tree and it is described as part of the Moon year.
More Osmanthus Recipes
In the next video we see how osmanthus flowers are harvested for tea production. Beating the trees with a stick is how it all starts!
Finally there a quick recipe for Osmanthus rice cake. Spoiler .. it’s a rice cake with dried osmanthus flowers sprinkled on top.
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