The butterfly pea flower or Bunga Telang (Malay) is a fast growing creeper plant that is widely grown in tropical countries, such as Malaysia and other parts of Asia. The scientific name for it is clitoria ternatea, as the shape of the flower resembles part of a female genital. The plant is a perennial and bears a striking deep blue flower year-round.
The pea flower is commonly used as a natural blue food dye in Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine, and also to make a delicious blue tea. The blue color can be obtained using both freshly picked or dried flowers. Some popular Nyonya rice and snack dishes that uses this flower as a coloring agent are pulit inti, and bah zhang (click on link to recipe on my cooking blog). Pulut inti is a Malaysian snack made with glutinous rice and topped with coconut, while the latter is a sticky rice dumpling with a sweet and savory filling.
On my recent trip to Malaysia, I brought home some dried flowers and seeds to try to grow in our garden. Alas, only one plant survived and grew into a thin and leggy vine, bearing tiny blue flowers. Nevertheless, I was glad to see them popping up in the garden.
An interesting observation that I’ve made with tea from pea flower is the blue changed to violet when I’ve added an acid such as lemon juice to the tea. This tells me that it is sensitive to ph. This really piques my interest, and I wondered how it would react to fabric?
In this post, I had fabric samples dipped into the blue dye to get different results. In another test, I pre-dyed a fabric swatch in yellow with turmeric and then into the blue dye. The color changed to apple green. For violet, vinegar was added to the blue dye. Below are results from these simple experiments.
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