Cliteria ternatea

Our handmade watercolours are all available on our Etsy store

How to use: Wet surface of pan. Gently scrub the surface to allow the watercolour more time to rehydrate. 

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.

Blue pea vines are a common sight in Singapore, as they grow prolifically across the island! Many people already know about the unique properties of blue pea flower, which produces a vibrant blue ink that can also transform to either pink/purple or green when an acid or alkali is added respectively.

When we first got started, we instinctively wanted to preserve the vibrant blue that the blue pea flower is known for.  

Painted with Blue Pea ink and citric acid as modifier.

When we first got started, we instinctively wanted to preserve the vibrant blue pigment that the blue pea flower is known for.  

However, since the flowers contain an important group of plant pigments known as the anthocyanins, which are very pH-sensitive, the lake pigmentation method process gave us a green pigment instead! We used alum mordant and soda ash (a base, which makes the mixture alkaline) in the pigmentation process. which gifts a lovely sap green colour! We also were able to create a lighter, more pastel green as well with a less pigmented solution.

Lake pigments from Blue pea dye.

More on the Plant behind the Colour

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.

We presently have a bush of Blue Pea in our studio, though they can be foraged from roadsides, gardens, or even purchased from some traditional chinese medicine (TCM) stores. 

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. This seems to be corroborated by its presence in many traditional Southeast Asian dishes, such as 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 also make blue pea flowers into a refreshing drink called nam dok anchan – a combination of the brewed blue water, lime juice and pandan-flavoured syrup. 

Blue Pea tea.
Salivating picture of the Nasi Kerabu – a feast for the eyes and mouth.

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. 

What a generous plant, gifting us with her aesthetic beauty, natural pigments that we can use for art and for food, and even medicinal purposes!