Japanese Pagoda Tree

The Japanese Pagoda Tree (Styphnolobium japonicum) is grown as an ornamental in the United Kingdom.

It is also known as the Chinese Scholar Tree or the Pagoda Tree. This deciduous tree, native to China and Korea, has been cultivated for centuries.

Many people grow it as an ornamental for its beautiful cascading white flowers, but they also eat many parts of the tree and use them in traditional cuisines and remedies.

One of the most common edible uses is the consumption of its young tender leaves, shoots, and twigs. These can be cooked and eaten with rice, providing a nutritious and flavourful addition to meals.

In some regions, the shoots are sundried and then boiled multiple times to remove bitter elements before being eaten.

People sometimes thoroughly boil the twigs in water and poach an egg in the liquid. The broth is drunk and the poached egg eaten as a home remedy believed to stop haemorrhages.

The flowers and buds of the Japanese Pagoda Tree also have culinary uses. In Hong Kong, they are gathered and used as a main ingredient in the traditional Five Flower Tea (‘Wu Hua Cha’), enjoyed during the hot summer months.

The fragrant flowers add a delicate flavour and aroma to the tea. The leaves can also be dried and used to make a a refreshing tea.

The endosperm, the nutritive tissue inside the seed, is cooked with sugar to create a popular sweet dessert in Northern China.

Moreover, an edible starch can be extracted from the seeds, providing another way to utilise this versatile tree.

References

Facciola, S. (1998). Cornucopia II: A source book of edible plants. Kampong Publications.

Hu, S. (2005). Food Plants of China. Chinese University Press.

Kunkel, G. (1984). Plants for Human Consumption: An Annotated Checklist of the Edible Phanerogams and Ferns. Koeltz Scientific Books.

Madden, E., McLachlan, C., Oketch, Rabah, H., & Calderón, A. I. (2022). United States Pharmacopeia comprehensive safety review of Styphnolobium japonicum flower and flower bud. Phytotherapy Research, 36(5), 2061–2071.

Read, B. E. (1946). Famine Foods Listed in the Chiu Huang Pen Ts?ao: Giving Their Identity, Nutritional Values and Notes on Their Preparations. Henry Lester Institute of Medical Research.

Uphof, J. C. T. (1959). Dictionary of Economic Plants. H.R. Engelmann.

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