Clitoria aka Butterfly Pea Vine
clitoria aka butterfly pea vine
days to maturity: 60 days
plant spacing: 1-3 plants per square foot, trellised
sunlight requirements: 8-14 hours
look out for: thrips
harvest notes: harvest flowers daily
Clitoria, commonly known as “pea vine” or “butterfly pea”, is a tropical plant native to temperate areas of the world, including Southeast Asia and Madagascar, where the flowers are often used as a food dye or dipped in batter and deep-fried. In Thailand, the blue flowers are traditionally used to make purple rice, which you do by making your rice with a handful of the flowers and then adding a splash of citrus, usually lime to change the color to purple. This is a super fun way to add color to your diet and include kids in the kitchen. Raising the pH of the water (usually by adding lemon juice) makes the infusion go from blue to purple. You can also infuse these flowers in coconut milk to make sweet blue tinted deserts, or throw your daily harvest of flowers into a bottle of liquor to turn it blue.
Although the seed pod is not edible, we love growing Clitoria in gardens and at the farm, allowing it to climb up any unused fence space and produce beautiful edible & medicinal bright blue flowers. Butterfly pea vine starts its growth slowly but then ramps up during the hottest months of the year, growing quickly and flowering profusely. We harvest the flowers daily for sale to chefs and to dry for teas and we are amazed when we come back to one mature plant day after day and find it full of flowers; the amount of flowers one plant can produce is astounding. Leave a few flowers on your plant to get pollinated and make brown seed pods and you’ll have plenty of pea vine seeds for next season. If you don’t get around to harvesting all of your seed pods they will burst open at maturity and self seed easily. Pollinators like bees and butterflies love to visit this plant, and sometimes when we are harvesting flowers we have to shake bees out of every one!
In Southeast Asian countries communities have been brewing and drinking medicinal butterfly pea vine tea for centuries, and it's just now becoming more popular in America. The traditional recipe is to brew the flowers along with lemongrass. The bright blue tea flavor is earthy and woody, similar to green tea, and is prized for being highly medicinal and containing compounds beneficial for healthy skin. Clitoria is known to be a nootropic, meaning it stimulates circulation to the brain, enhances memory cognition and supports the pituitary gland.
Our resident herbalist Jules says: “I love to blend it with Tulsi, Rosemary and Sage for a warm morning brew. It also makes a delicious herbal latte that is an amazing substitute for coffee in my opinion. When drunk regularly, the flowers can help the female reproductive system return to balance and can help treat menstrual issues like irregular menses or heavy flow and cramping. The infusion from the flowers is known to calm the system down and may help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.”
We also sell saved seed from this plant variety here!