AUTUMN is the season of the golden osmanthus, a favorite Chinese garden flower with an intense sweet fragrance.
Osmanthus is a genus of about 30 species belonging to the Oleaceae family. The plant, which ranges in size from shrubs to trees, is indigenous to China and other parts of Asia.
Considered one of China’s 10 “traditional flowers,” osmanthus usually blooms in the autumn. And it is more than just visual pleasure that makes the plant so prized.
Rice wine flavored with the blossoms is the traditional drink of the Mid-Autumn Festival which fell on September 8 this year. Dating back centuries, it’s considered the “wine of longevity.” The refreshing drink enhances the appetite and nourishes weak spleens. It is considered a good tonic for women.
Osmanthus has long been associated with Chinese traditional medicine. Osmanthus tea is said to improve the complexion, rid the body of harmful toxins, refresh the breath and cure nettle rash. The petals are used to relieve coughing and phlegm, and the plant roots are said to ease backache, toothaches and weak kidneys.
However, the most popular way to use osmanthus is in Chinese cuisine.
One favorite dish native to Shanghai is steamed lotus roots stuffed with glutinous rice and topped with osmanthus syrup.
Here’s how to do it. Wash the lotus roots and cut them into big chunks. Fill the holes in the root with rice that has been soaked in water. Cover with the lotus top that was cut off earlier and fix it in place with toothpicks.
Simmer the root on a low heat for up to half an hour, then cut it into slices.
The next step is to make the osmanthus syrup. Combine sugar and crushed petals into boiling water. Remove the foam and then let simmer until the mixture thickens.
Spread the syrup evenly on the sliced lotus roots. The dish is a taste treat, with the combination of the crunchy lotus, the soft rice and the fragrance of osmanthus.