Tuesday, September 29, 2009
That intensely sweet smell across the neighborhoods of the fair town: osmanthus fragrans, aka sweet olive
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.