Jasmine plants are one of the easiest house plants to grow. Ours spend the summer on the sunny kitchen patio and the winter in a south-facing window. All winter long our Jasminum sambac ‘Maid of Orleans’ throws us blossoms enough to flavor tea and rice whenever needed. At this time of year it provides handfuls and they can be used fresh or dried.
A half a dozen fresh jasmine flowers is all that is needed to scent a large pot of rice. Simply toss the flowers in with the rice, along with a pinch of salt, splash of olive oil, and water to boil. You don’t need to remove the flowers when done as they are perfectly edible. And its just that easy with a pot of tea, hot or cold. Add the flowers while the tea is seeping. For maximum jasmine flavor, rub the rim of the glass or cup with a freshly plucked blossom.
Jasmine Flower Ice Tea
Within the pages of my book on garden design, you’ll find a wealth of information about edible flowers, as well as information on growing herbs.
“Moonlight of the Groves”
Jasmine is among the loveliest of plants used to cover vertical structures—walls, arbors, porches, pergolas, bowers, and what you will. To my knowledge, and sadly so, none of the fragrant Jasminum are reliably hardy north of zone seven, and therefore must be potted up to spend the winter indoors.
Jasminum sambac, a woody evergreen shrub with vining tendencies, flowers freely throughout the year, covered with small (3⁄8 ̋), white, single or double flowers that fade to pink as they age. The perfume is similar to lilacs and orange blossoms, an exhilarating combination of scents that insinuates itself throughout garden and home.
Jasminum sambac is the flower that the Hindus gave the poetic name of “Moonlight of the Groves.” An ingredient often utilized to make perfume and flavor tea, J. sambac is also called bela when used to make garlands by women to wear in their hair during in Hindu worship ceremonies.
Although originally native to India, J. sambac grows throughout southern China. Confucius wrote that scented flowers were strewn about on all festive occasions. Houseboats and temples alike were hung with fragrant blossoms of peach, magnolia, jonquil, and jasmine. Gardens were devoted solely to the cultivation of jasmine to make fragrant oils and perfumes, to scent wines and teas, and to adorn the wrists and hair for women to wear in the evening. Each morning the unopened buds would be collected before dawn and brought to market for the city flower sellers to string into garlands and bracelets. Enhancing the tea experience by adding aromatics began during the Song Dynasty (a.d.960-1279). A single, newly opened blossom of J. sambac is all that is needed to perfume and flavor a pot of tea.
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Jasminum sambac is hardy, with the protection of a warm blanket of mulch, through zone seven; grown in cooler regions, it needs to be brought inside for the winter and grown in a pot. During the warmer months, our J. sambac thrives with frequent watering; we douse the entire plant with the garden hose several times a week. For pot culture, water less frequently during the winter. Requir- ing well-draining soil, and provided with a weekly dose of an organic fertilizer such as a fish emulsion during the warmer months, “Moonlight of the Groves” will reward you with an abundance of exotically scented blossoms throughout the year. We prune ours hard, twice a year, to about six feet, not allowing it grow larger as it would become too unwieldy to bring indoors during the cooler months. Place the plant outside in a sunny to partly sunny location in late springwhen the evening temperatures are consistently 50 degrees or higher. Prune leggy, dry growth and wrap healthy tendrils around the supporting framework. Prune again in mid-fall, before temperatures dip lower than 45 degrees, and bring indoors to set by a warm sunny window. We grow several J. sambac ‘Maid of Orleans,’ one is planted on the east side of our home near the outdoor shower enclosure where it benefits from the high humidity and we benefit from its intoxicating fragrance. A second ‘Maid of Orleans’ is grown on our patio adjacent to the back door leading to the kitchen. We can handily pick a few blossoms to scent a pot of tea, and the fabulous fragrance greets us coming and going, day and evening.