In Japan, and many other parts of East Asia, the wonderful aroma of osmanthus, otherwise known as the fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) and known in Japanese as 金木製 kinmokusei, is a harbinger of fall. Its small orange flowers blossom for only a few days, but when they do, their sweet and soothing fragrance reminiscent of peach and apricot is carried on the autumn breeze and fills the air as you walk through many residential neighborhoods where it is planted along hedges and in gardens.
Although it has traditionally been used in teas, jams and desserts elsewhere in East Asia, the popularity of osmanthus as a product ingredient is more recent in Japan. Perfumes and hand creams featuring the flower and its essential oils are increasingly appearing on the market, usually sold in the fall.
However, there are ways of harnessing the fragrance and flavor of osmanthus without buying a product. This time, we'd like to introduce a simple method, turning osmanthus petals into a syrup that delights all the senses.
Even if you don't live in East Asia, you may be able to take advantage of osmanthus as it is also planted in other parts of the world. For example, its American cousins, the devilwood (Cartrema americana), native to southeastern North America, in the United States from Virginia to Texas, and in Mexico from Nuevo León south to Oaxaca and Veracruz, and the scrub wild olive (Cartrema floridanum), native to central Florida, also produces fragrant blossoms which can just as easily be used. Just be certain that you know what the tree species is before you consume any part of it.
This video on YouTube channel Atelier Tulip will show you how it's done.
"You can eat osmanthus petals?!" Some of the comments on the video indicated that people were surprised to learn that it's possible. However, be sure to remove all traces of the stems and leaves, since they will impart a bitter taste to the tea.
Osmanthus syrup can be used as a delicious substitute for sugar in tea, blended with honey and spread on bread, or as a topping on yogurt or ice cream. It's also beautiful to behold with osmanthus petals floating inside it.
It is best to harvest osmanthus flowers while the weather is nice, because the flowers will fall off if it rains and the winds are too strong.
If you have access to osmanthus, why not give it a try? It will allow you to extend your enjoyment of this ephemeral fall delight.
Read more stories from grape Japan.
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