Saturday, September 30, 2006

That intensely sweet smell across the neighborhoods of the fair town: osmanthus fragrans, aka sweet olive

From China with love: sweet osmanthus

Sweet Osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans; also known as Sweet Olive or "Tea Olive") is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing to 5-12 m tall, says It is native to Asia, from the Himalaya east through China to Japan.

Its flowers are small (1 cm long), white, with a four-lobed corolla and have a strong fragrance.

It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens (both in Asia and elsewhere in the world) for its deliciously fragrant flowers which carry the scent of ripe peaches or apricots.

The plant is semi- to moderately-hardy and will survive light frost but will not survive a prolonged or hard freeze.

In Chinese, the plant is called xī (樨), and its flowers, called guì huā (桂花, literally "cinnamon flower" or "cassia flower") are used, infused with green or black tea leaves, to create a scented tea called guì huā chá (桂花茶).

In Chinese cuisine, the flowers are also used to produce osmanthus-scented jam (called guì huā jiàng, 桂花醬 or 桂花酱), sweet cakes (called guì huā gāo, 桂花糕), dumplings, soups, and even liquor (桂花酒).

Well, bless my soul.

Indeed, I love sweet olive. It reminds me of uptown New Orleans and City Park. It's also redolent of Houston's Montrose and of Mobile and Biloxi for me.

And you?


Anonymous said...

Family tradition calls for us to deliver a sweet olive to all housewarming parties.

madeline said...

Sweet Olive reminds me of Shreveport and I miss it so much!

Dogblogger said...

WOW! I have been asking everyone what I have been smelling here as I am temp. living off Esplanade three blocks from City Park. And its this Sweet olive! This amazing fragrance is driving me crazy, I love it, and it smells even more serendipitous that I am reading this posting on your blog at this moment. How did you do that?!