Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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

What's that marvelous if mysterious fragrance on the street today?

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 wikiepdia.org. 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.

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 - St Charles Avenue is practically a forest of Sweet Olive - and of City Park. It's also redolent of Houston's Montrose and of Mobile and Biloxi for me.

And you?

5 comments:

Susan said...

I love sweet olives! In fact, i search them out on campus, they're all over LSU-BR. Great post!

dlil said...

I can smell them from way off and love to do so on our neighborhood walks in So Highland. We planted one in our yard just below our bedroom window (open tonite for the first time on a delightful evening). Sweet olive hasn't started blooming yet but it does so several times of the year which is unique.

saratoga said...

One of my favorite planty smells next to gardenias.

Anonymous said...

they also bloom in orange, To me they smell like tang

citranella said...

Sweet olive reminds me of Natchez, MS. I walked near a blooming plant yesterday at the Meadows Museum and it immediately transported me.