Blue Ternate, Clitoria ternatea if you insist on its botanic name, is increasingly getting attention in the Philippines. One big reason is its claimed health benefits when the flowers are made into tea drink. The drink is mostly made in a small way by hobbyists or micro-entrepreneurs because there is no supply of flowers in volumes that would justify putting up a big factory.
Now, if you don’t have the expertise to produce Blue Ternate tea for your own use or for sale, you might as well grow the plant and sell the flowers just like the Ephrathah Farm, an organic farm, in Badiangan, Iloilo. The farm has been smart enough to develop a regular buyer for its harvest of flowers albeit also in limited volume.
Do you know that Ephrathah sells its flowers at P1,500 per kilo? Of course, end-users don’t buy their requirements by the kilo. So it packages its flowers in small packs of 40 grams and sells each at P60 to a well known supermarket. The farm most of the time cannot supply the demand so it is planting more Blue Ternate.
In an interview by phone on March 26, 2020 (everybody is on lockdown due to COVID-19, you see), Eddie Cañuto, the farm’s founder, said he is also making some money germinating the seeds and selling the seedlings also through the supermarket. He sells them at P100 per three pieces whereas the supermarket sells each seedling at P50. There are buyers because they also want to plant the flowering Blue Ternate. Eddie added that it is very easy to sprout the seeds which are plentiful if you just allow the flowers to produce pods that mature. The seedlings are ready for sale in just three or four weeks from sowing.
Ephrathah has a practical way of growing Blue Ternate. The plants are kept just about a little over five feet tall so that harvesting the flowers is easy. How do they do that? Well, they make a circular support out of hogwire, about 1.5 feet in diameter. This is made steady by reinforcing it with wood that is driven into the ground. Seedlings are then planted around the base.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR MICRO-ENTREPRENEURS – Enterprising men and women in other places all over the country could copy what Ephrathah has done to develop its market for Blue Ternate flowers and seedlings. Farms or gardens in Metro Manila and surrounding towns and provinces can come up with their own little businesses anchored on Blue Ternate.
One can specialize, for instance, in growing Blue Ternate in pots (plastic pots and otherwise) for sale when they are of blooming size. Our friend, Carol Dadri of Mrs. Milagros Yee’s farm, is an expert in that. It should not be difficult for others to do, too. A flowering Blue Ternate supported by a simple stake, about 2.5 feet tall will easily fetch P250. It could be more, depending on the condition of the plant.
Another possibility is to produce seeds for sale. These could be sold in garden outlets as well as online. The seeds are not heavy so they are cheap to send by courier. When growing Blue Ternate for seeds, allow the plants to grow tall and robust. They will produce a lot of pods for seed production that way.
LITTLE KNOWN USES. There are little known uses of the flowers in the Philippines. For instance, you can use the flowers in your favorite salad.They can make the salad look more appetizing. Or maybe you can surprise your unknowing visitor by serving her blue rice. That’s so easy to do. When cooking rice, include a few flowers. The result will be blue cooked rice.
ALL OVER THE WORLD. A native of the equatorial tropics, Blue Ternate is now grown in both tropical and temperate countries. That is why it is called by many names. Wikipedia includes such names as Asian pigeonwings, bluebell vine, blue pea, butterfly pea, cordofan pea and Darwin pea. Most people I know in the Philippines often call it just Blue Ternate. They don’t usually mention its botanic name for their own reasons. Among Tagalogs I know, they call the plant Pukinggan. And in my hometown of Batac, now a city, in Ilocos Norte where we grew up, we call it Tabulali.
When we were ten years old or thereabouts, my mother would tell me to harvest tender pods of Tabulali in a nearby patch where the viny vegetable grew. The pods make a very tasty ingredient in a soupy dish called “dinengdeng” which consists of other vegetables like squash flowers, squash tender shoots, bamboo shoot, grilled fish and more. We imagine that the tender pods could as well take the place of the expensive french beans in today’s salads.