Deep Blue Pea "Blue"
How to use: Wet surface of pan. Gently scrub the surface to allow the watercolour more time to rehydrate. This watercolour is reactive with baking soda solution (1:1 baking soda to water ratio) and citric acid solution (you can get citric acid from sour fruits like lemons).
Storage: Store in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. Ensure the pan is dried out before keeping. Even though we boil our inks with natural preservatives, there is still a chance of mold growing. In case that happens, just scrap off the moldy part and you should still be able to continue using the colours.
Like many others, we are intrigued by the vibrant blues of the flowers, and hence the motivation to start experimenting with the plant. However, the usual lake pigmentation method did not work for this plant. Why not?
An important group of plant pigments, called the anthocyanins, are responsible for most blues and reds observed in nature. And yes, this group of pigments is dominant in the blue pea flowers. Extraction using the lake pigmentation process was futile after multiple attempts, since anthocyanins are very pH-sensitive and the lake pigmentation method required the addition of an acid and a strong alkali for precipitation. We learnt the hard way but it was overall a good lesson nonetheless.
After experimentation with multiple of binders and fillers, we finally found a combination that works well for us (and hopefully the rest of you would agree). The wonderful thing about this ink-based recipe is that the watercolour maintains the changeability quality of inks with different modifiers (tip: add baking soda and lemon juice to a layer of blue pea and see what happens!), adding a layer of surprise and fun to the process of painting with this watercolour pan.
The flowers of the Blue Pea vine have been in the limelight a lot, especially in the recent years when she became a trendy colouring agent in Singapore at high-end cocktail bars and experimental local restaurants. But her usage goes way back into traditional recipes. One of the better-known dish is the Malay nasi kerabu recipe. Originating from Kelantan, Malaysia, the chef creates blue-stained rice with these flowers, and pairs it with dried meat, pickles, crackers and other vegetables to create a dish that is inviting for both our eyes and taste buds. The Thais make it into a refreshing drink called nam dok anchan - a combination of the brewed blue water, lime juice and pandan-flavoured syrup.
This crawler can be found growing wild and bushy along our roadsides. There seems to be conflicting information on the native origin of this species, but it is found so commonly in Southeast Asia today that many sources still state it as a native plant. While her beautiful blue blooms are unmistakable, they only last for a few hours. Usually, I spot them wide open in the mornings; by late afternoon however, most of them will have closed up or started to wither off. But fret not, the Blue Pea blooms very frequently, and I've been told that the more one plucks the flowers, the longer they bloom for. I suppose this is because plucking the flowers reduces their chances of pollination and eventual formation of seed pods.
There is also an extensive literature of Blue Pea being used to treat different ailments in folk medicine. She is known by a different name “Shankapushpi” in Ayurvedic medicine. A syrup is made from the various plant parts to improve circulation to the brain, resulting in a heightened sense of clarity, improved memory and greater focus. This is an herb of choice in Ayurvedic medicine when treating ADD and ADHD in children, as well as improving memory retention in the elderly. Lab research has also revealed that the root extracts of the Blue Pea enhances memory in rats, while another analysis of the compounds demonstrated a high composition of a type of omega-3 fatty acid which has neuroprotective properties. Though there is still a need for more scientific research, the plant's medicinal usage does seem promising.
Our Blue Pea watercolours are available for sale at our Etsy shop. We hope you have as much fun creating with this Blue Pea watercolour pan as much as we enjoyed playing around with her colours and properties!
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