Cowslip Creeper Flowers
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Cowslip Creeper flowers grow on long and slender, vining plants that bear dark green, heart-shaped leaves averaging 4 to 8 centimeters in diameter. The vines are tough, maturing from green to brown, and alongside each leaf node, a cluster of 10 to 20 flowers appear seasonally. Each flower averages 1 to 2 centimeters in diameter and bears five angular petals, forming a star shape. When young, the flowers are green, eventually developing a yellow-green hue at the base with solid yellow petals once the bud opens. The flowers also emit a strong and pleasant, citrus-like fragrance that is especially pungent in the evening when in bloom. Cowslip Creeper flowers are crisp, succulent, and tender with a mild, vegetal, subtly sweet, and earthy flavor.
Cowslip Creeper flowers are available in the late spring through early fall.
Cowslip Creeper flowers, botanically classified as Telosma cordata, are small, seasonal blooms on a vining plant belonging to the Apocynaceae or milkweed family. The variety is native to China and Southeast Asia, where the vines can reach up to five meters in length and are planted in home gardens as an ornamental, culinary, and medicinal plant. Cowslip Creeper flowers are considered rare in local markets worldwide as they are only in season once a year. The flowers bloom in succession, limiting availability, and are often wrapped in banana leaves in markets, attracting shoppers by their aromatic, citrus-like scent. Cowslip Creeper flowers are also known by many regional names, including Tonkin Jasmine, Tonkinese Creeper, Sabidukong, Bunga Tongkeng, and Dok Kajon. The flowers are highly favored as a specialty ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine and can be eaten fresh or lightly cooked, readily absorbing accompanying flavors in soups and salads.
Cowslip Creeper flowers are a good source of vitamins A and C, antioxidants that strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, and protect the body against free radicals. The flowers also contain fiber to regulate the digestive tract and provide lower amounts of iron, calcium, and phosphorus.
Cowslip Creeper flowers are a seasonal ingredient used in Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian cuisine. The flowers can be consumed raw, incorporated into salads for added texture, or utilized as an edible garnish to decorate cakes, desserts, and main dishes. In addition to fresh preparations, Cowslip Creeper flowers can withstand cooking and readily absorb accompanying flavors, providing a mild earthiness and subtle crisp consistency to dishes. The flowers can be battered and fried, tossed into soups and curries, or stir-fried with oyster sauce. In Thailand, Cowslip Creeper flowers are popularly boiled and dipped in chile paste. In the Philippines, the flowers are cooked into a vegetable dish known as pinakbet and frequently mixed into omelets. Cowslip Creeper flowers pair well with noodles, rice, meats such as pork, beef, and fish, shrimp, eggs, tofu, aromatics such as garlic, ginger, and holy basil, pandan juice, coconut, and vegetables such as mushrooms, long beans, squash, eggplant, and mung beans. The flowers should be immediately consumed for the best quality and flavor.
In Hawaii, Cowslip Creeper flowers are known as Pakalana and are a fragrant flower used in specialty leis. The variety was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in the mid-19th century through Chinese immigrants and was quickly naturalized, planted along trellises and walls in home gardens. Pakalana flowers are only found seasonally, leading the blossoms to be regarded as a valuable and exotic variety for lei making. Pakalana leis were especially popular during the mid-20th century, frequently given to arriving passengers on luxury cruise liners at the harbor as a welcome gift. The leis were also a favorite graduation gift, sewn in single strands or woven in intricate designs by family members. It was common for parents and grandmothers of the graduating student to forage for Pakalana flowers to make into a lei as a symbolic gesture of giving their loved one abundant and precious life. In the modern-day, Pakalana leis are still considered rare and are made as a custom, seasonal lei. Once worn, the leis are dried and used as decoration, draped over photos as memories, or naturally composted to give back to the earth.
Cowslip Creeper flowers are native to regions of China and mainland Southeast Asia, which encompasses Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. The ancient vining plant grew well in deciduous and tropical forests across its native range and was spread to other regions of Southeast Asia and Asia in the early age. Over time, the variety was spread to Polynesia and other areas around the world through immigration. Today Cowslip Creeper flowers are cultivated on a small scale and are a favorite home garden plant found in Asia, Southeast Asia, Polynesia, and the United States.
Recipes that include Cowslip Creeper Flowers. One is easiest, three is harder.