Osmantus flower of fall - How sweet it is

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Sweet, lingering and seductive, but not overwhelming - these words could describe an ideal date - or an osmanthus flower, a famous Chinese fragrant and tasteful ingredient of autumn. Gao Ceng inhales.

During this season when sweet osmanthus is in bloom, people in a hurry sometimes cannot help but slow their pace and take a deep breath of the fragrance, which is pure, sweet and seductive.

The lingering fragrance is difficult to describe, but it has been called delicate and fruity-floral, somewhat like apricot. The shrub or tree osmanthus fragrance is also known as sweet olive or tea olive.

"Unlike other flowers smelling either too delicate or too intense, osmanthus (guihua in Chinese pinyin) presents a floral scent that is clean enough to wash away the dust in the air and rich enough to spread over miles. It's hard to believe it comes from nature and not the moon in heaven," wrote Song Dynasty (960-1279) poet Yang Wanli.

Yang's comparison of osmanthus fragrance to heavenly scent is inspired by a legend. It was said that osmanthus was originally a plant in the heavenly moon. A sky fairy who could not bear to watch a plague devastating humanity scattered osmanthus seeds over the Earth. They grew into fragrant plants and their flowers were made into wine that helped cure the people.

Osmanthus was praised by literati as a symbol of tenacity since it blooms in the autumn, when weather turns cold and frosty. The tiny flowers of white, yellow and orange seem to evoke beauty and romance. "Seductive" is a term widely associated with osmanthus perfume.

Unlike many other flower petals that are bitter, osmanthus petals have a distinctive taste, which is only slightly bitter but mildly sweet. This makes it ideal for cooking and making tea and wine. It is said that only by tasting osmanthus can one fully experience and appreciate its beauty.

Osmanthus is abundant in Jiangnan, the region south of the Yangtze River, and is widely used in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai cuisines both as an ingredient and fragrance. It can be made into savory dishes and sweet dim sum, adding sweetness with more dimensions and freshness and balancing fatty taste. It is used in making wines and teas, both green and black.

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