Cat Whisker Flowers
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Cat Whisker flowers are small in size, approximately 2 centimeters in length. The flowers range from white to light purple and have a tubular shape with elongated, thin stamens that can reach almost three times the length of the flowers. These stamens are slightly curved, extending outward, and are delicate and wispy. The flowers grow symmetrically along thin, maroon-colored stems that also have serrated and ovate-shaped leaves with prominent veining. Cat Whisker flowers have a crisp and delicate texture and a sweet and grassy flavor with bitter undertones.
Cat Whisker flowers are available year-round in tropical regions and late summer through fall in more temperate climates.
Cat Whisker flowers bloom along the reaching stems of the Java Tea plant, botanically classified as Orthosiphon aristatus. This herbaceous perineal grows as a shrub, displaying dark green serrated leaves and woody stems. The herb is related to mint, oregano, thyme, and lavender and is a member of the Lamiaceae family. Cat Whisker flowers are known by many English names, including Java Tea, Kitty Whiskers, and Kidney Tea plant. The plant is widely used in Asia and is known as Misai Kucing in Indonesia, Yaa-nuat-maeo in Thailand, Kabling-gubat or Balbas-Pusa in the Philippines, and Mao Xu Cao in China. Favored in Asia for their medicinal value, Cat Whisker plants are known for their leaves and are commonly made into an herbal tea. They are also a popular home garden plant used to add color and texture to the landscape and attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. The leaves and flowers of the plant are entirely edible, but they can have toxic side effects if consumed in too large of quantities. Any part of the plant that grows below ground is considered poisonous and should not be consumed.
Cat Whisker flowers contain high levels of potassium, a compound that helps maintain normal levels of fluid inside the body’s cells. The flowers and leaves are believed to have diuretic properties. The plant has been used for centuries to treat kidney ailments, help with bloating and swelling, and cleanse the body. The plant also displays anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is a topical treatment for fungal infections. Scientific research has shown that compounds within the plant can also help to lower blood pressure levels and reduce the effects of asthma and other respiratory issues.
Cat Whisker flowers can be used as a beautiful edible garnish. The wispy flowers can be kept on the stem and used to decorate cakes, platters, and edible table displays, or the flowers can be separated and sprinkled over salads and desserts. Cat Whisker plants are known for their edible leaves that can be used fresh or dried. Though edible raw, the dark green leaves are generally not consumed by themselves as they have a strong, grassy flavor and fibrous texture. The leaves are steeped in boiling water to make a mildly sweet, flavored tea and are sometimes paired with garlic and turmeric as a medicinal drink. Cat Whisker leaves can also be dried and found in powder form, capsules, and extracts. When dried, the leaves will keep for 1 to 2 years when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
The leaves of the Cat Whisker plant have been used in many Eastern medicine practices for thousands of years as a diuretic. The plants are cultivated on mass throughout the islands of Indonesia. The tea and supplements made from the plant's dried leaves are known as Java tea, after the Indonesian island with the highest number of cultivated plants. Harvesting of the leaves in the region is done mainly by women. The women live and work on the plantations in tiny villages made up of houses, shops, and playgrounds. The women work all day with scissors, picking just the right leaves to harvest to guarantee the best tea and keep the plant healthy. The harvested leaves are dried and sold as tea or supplements across many parts of the world.
Cat Whisker flowers grow in tropical regions around the world and are found along forest edges, roadsides, and fields. The plants are native to select tropical regions of Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia and have been growing wild since ancient times. Through seed trade and immigration, the plants have spread throughout much of Asia and can be found in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, China, Myanmar, and Cambodia. They can also be found in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Java, and Sumatra, and in tea form, the leaves are sold online in Europe and the United States. Fresh Cat Whisker flowers may be found at roadside flower markets, farmers markets, and some specialty stores.
Recipes that include Cat Whisker Flowers. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Herbs-Treat and Taste||Cat's Whiskers Tisane|