Xewali phool or the Night-flowering Jasmine (scientific name:Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) is used widely in Assamese cuisine not only because of it's availability but also because of it's various medicinal properties. Assamese cuisine is fascinating to me because of it's inclusion of various herbs and greens-some of which are unique in characteristic.
In this post i am focusing the use of this flower which highlights the folk medicine culture in our food habits ....if somebody is interested an expert advice is suggested.Like many traditional Assamese household we too have this small tree or shrub right in front of our house.
The flower contains five to eight petals and a bright reddish orange centre,it is highly fragrant,if you pick the flowers your hands smell good for a very long time.One interesting fact about them is that they bloom only at night time as you can see here in these pictures.I took two shots one at day time where you can see many buds and another at night when you can clearly see the blooms.As soon as the first rays of sunlight hit them they fall ,it is a beautiful sight when you see a lovely and sweet smelling white carpet of Khewali-phool first thing in the morning...it is always rush hour for me at that time so could not manage one picture of the same.My mom-in-law and my kids collect the fallen flowers in a plate , some of which are offered to God later and most of it goes straight to the kitchen.Unlike other flowers this flower can be offered to God even if they are collected from the earth(or are fallen ).One very interesting mythological story is attached to it...Lord Krishna brought this heavenly flower to earth ,now both of his wives Rukmini and Satyabhama wanted it to be planted at their own courtyard.Krishna solved the tiff between the two by strategically planting it at Satyabhama's courtyard so that the flowers always fell on Rukmini's courtyard.Now coming to its medicinal properties... many believe that it is a very safe de toxifying agent ,we also use decotation of its leaves for low grade fevers and body aches,many use the paste of leaves to the skin as it is believed to help in certain skin conditions.Pramathesh informed me that it is consumed empty stomach in the morning as an anti malarial agent.It is also used as a very safe purgative for kids and helps in relieving dry cough,faintness .I love it because of its unique flavour and aroma.....you can compare it very little to the flavor of Jasmine tea.
I admit that when for the very first time it was served to me i was scared to try it out but others assured me that i need not fear and must try it...and i did.I love it for its unique flavour and taste....it is prepared in various ways as i am a vegetarian i like this RICE-VERSION...where flowers are added to pre-cooked rice and fried together ,very less oil and no other spices except for turmeric and salt is used here to preserve its aroma and flavor.Assamese food is served in courses,so it is always served first because of its slight bitter taste,it is also termed as TEETA-BHAAT(bitter-rice) .Another very popular variation is FISH CURRY by adding these flowers ...loved by my kids and other family members.
A special thanks to Pramathesh and his friends from the office who helped me know the scientific name of this flower.