Passion Flower As Herbal Tea
The word passion appeals to me; am I getting to be a dirty old man? Yes, is the answer but the dirt is soil. Oops, I hate soil being called dirt so I must not correlate the two words. Soil really can raise my passion like nothing else. However, my passion in this post is the passion flower. Its Latin name is Passiflora caerulea and it’s a climbing plant from South America. It grows like a weed in my Dorset garden and needs ruthless management. However, it displays these complex flowers. I hesitate to call them beautiful. Exotic, flashy, even weird might describe them better. That said, passion flower as herbal tea came as a complete surprise.
This plant or its name, must have appealed to me as a pauperised yet budding 15 year old horticulturalist. I planted its seeds at the nursery where I worked. This was during the ‘destruction phase’ in my early development, when I was trained to destroy the environment using agent orange. The seeds grew and I put one plant at the back of our council house, growing up the stench pipe. The back of the house was painted with Snowcem, a paint based on chalk. This wall was south facing and warm. The exotic flower amazed everyone, including me, and the plant lived for perhaps 15 years. That was Shropshire, where the winter frosts can be dire and they finally did for the exotic twiner.
I was surprised, a marriage, solvent and 14 house moves later, to find passion flowers in my Christchurch bungalow garden. I transferred a plant to a trellis archway and it wreathed and twined in delight. It looks, like me, a little passionless over winter but sun and heat instantly invigorates it. Leaves appear on what seemed dead stems followed by masses of flowers. The bees love the nectar and scrabble over each other within a single flower. The unusual, pivoting anthers deposit masses of pollen on the back of each bee, like a gold crown.
During the lockdown, I have reinvented myself as a gardener. After the garlic, seed potatoes, carrots and spinach were laboriously planted or sown, I asked myself a question. What plants present in the garden have a culinary use? Consequently, mint tea is now drunk before bedtime. Dill tea was not so good. Sage tea still awaits a trial but then I found passion flower tea on the internet. Like all passion, there is danger in all that writhing, in what might touch the sipping lips. It appears that cyanide is hiding in the leaves!
Passion flower as herbal tea
When I am in my horticultural mode I feel so close to Zuri in 2200 BC. She, like me, must have pondered over how to use plants. They will have eaten so many plants, many of them toxic. We are now aware that many herbs are toxic if eaten in large quantities. That applies to gorse flowers and she would have known that. We know that they flavoured beer with meadowsweet flowers in the Neolithic, so they certainly experimented with the use of plants. However, we don’t know whether they created tea, as a hot or cold drink. For certain, she did not know passion flower. Yet, had she seen one, would she have tasted the cyanide in the leaves?
The taste buds
Have our taste buds lost much of their sensitivity over 4,000 years? Perhaps I can no longer taste harmful substances as Zuri could. If she was that capable, maybe she knew that she could boil out the cyanide in a pot of water. We, with our science, know this. So many plants out there are full of poisons, but they are often only toxic in high concentration. A small amount, a few leaves, can be nutritious and even turn into a highly effective herbal cure.
To drink or not to drink
To conclude, the passion flower tea is yet to be sampled. In part this is because information sourced on the internet always worries me. All to often, one site simply records what it found on another site. As you track back you realise that the data might be about another plant. Yes, the tea made from passiflora incarnata is safe, but that is just one of many passion flowers. It’s not the passion flower in my garden. The bees will be attracted but I think I might be avoiding any passionate relationship with the exotic twiner.