My sister recently traveled to the south of Bhutan for work and came back with low-land treats including lots of bananas and some of the flowers you see on the left. Yes, the flowers are to eat! In Dzongkha we call them bashika. I am not sure of what they would be called in English but the scientific name for the shrub that these flowers grow on is Adhatoda vasica. The flowers are collected from the wild and was were fact among the many plants documented in a survey of wild and edible plants in Bhutan. Bhutanese believe that the bitter flowers have medicinal properties.
The same plant is in fact part of the range of plants used in traditional Indian medicine but instead of the flowers they use the leaves which are either brewed into a tea or ground into a paste.
According to the survey of wild and edible plants there are several ways in which the flowers can be prepared including with meat, stir-fried or made into a datshi with chili and cheese. Our house-keeper, Yeshi made a datshi out of the flowers for lunch yesterday.
She began by boiling the flowers on our gas stove, she explained that this would clean the flowers as well as remove some of the bitterness. Below is the pot of flowers after they were boiled. Yeshi points out how brown the water has become.
Next the flowers were drained and placed in a bowl with fresh water. Yeshi then scooped out the flowers and pressed out the water by hand.
This is what the boiled, drained and hand strained flowers looked like.
Then Yeshi had to painstakingly clean the flowers by hand, removing any remaining dirt as well as a large green, very boiled caterpillar. ( Poor guy!)
Afterwards she added the typical ingredients for a datshi. Chili, salt , a little bit of vegetable oil and water. The cheese is added after the dish is almost cooked. In this case we were out of Bhutanese cheese, so Yeshi used the processed Indian cheese that is becoming the standard in many Bhutanese kitchens.
And here we have the finished product, ready to eat.The texture of the flowers was a little slimy but not unpleasant and the taste was less bitter than I remember. Its possible that they were boiled a little too zealously removing too much bitterness.
For more on survey of wild and edible Bhutanese plants:
Kinlay Tshering ( 2012 “ Edible and Wild Plants of Bhutan and their contribution to food and nutritionsecurity” Horticulture Division, Department of Agriculture Ministry of Agriculture & Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan