The butterfly pea flower is a native from Thailand where it is called Dok Anchan (Latin name is clitoria ternatia). It grows on a vine producing bountiful crops of delicate blue and purple flowers which are typically dried.
The dried flowers are used in Thailand as an herbal ingredient to many foods (such as rice and desserts) and in drinks.
EDIBLE BUTTERFLY PEAS FLOWERS
The flowers have a neutral taste and very mild aroma kind of like peas. In some preparations, there is no evidence of taste or aroma just the pure blue or purple color.
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HEALTH BENEFITS OF BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWERS
Butterfly pea flowers are a very high source of antioxidants. As a tea, it has an ORAC of 7022 per 250ml cup of tea made from one tea bag of ground dried flowers.
They are highly valued for the herbal benefits when consumed or used in cosmetics. For example, the flower extract has reportedly been used as a traditional herbal remedy to treat insect bites, hair regrowth, eye infections and general vitality.
Scientists are also very interested in the potential capabilities in other areas of medicine. Whilst scientific research is ongoing, it is also believed the butterfly pea flowers may have benefits for depression, memory enhancement, neurological benefits (source), anti-inflammatory, analgesic activities and antiglycation and antioxidant properties for anti-aging and diabetics.
This study from India concluded that the anti-inflammatory, analgesic studies of the extract
from the flowers showed that it exhibited significant anti-inflammatory activity.
This study has been demonstrated to possess anti-diabetic activity. Studies have shown that
butterfly pea flowers have strong antiglycation and antioxidant properties and might have
therapeutic potentials in the prevention of AGE-mediated diabetic complications.
COLOR CHANGING PROPERTIES
Butterfly pea flowers are one of just a few other ingredients to obtain a natural blue color to some degree. Other sources include blue corn, red cabbage and blueberries but the butterfly pea flower is the most intense in blue obtained from the flowers deep blue pigment from.
The color in these foods is from blue/purple anthocyanin antioxidants which are subject to color change along the blue – purple – red color spectrum in the presence of other acid (such as citrus) or alkaline ingredients (such as bicarb soda).
There is therefore an opportunity for manufacturers to perform research and development with the prototype to determine if a suitable color can be achieved in the range of blue to purple and pink, all of which are aesthetically pleasing colors for food and beverages.