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Flower power: The fragrant Motia

Published May 16, 2010 12:00am

As summer arrives the fragrance of motia assails one's senses. Usually, vendors at traffic signals are the first to herald the arrival of motia; you can spot more than a couple at each signal trying to lure customers to buy their gajras. From newly married girls to elegant old ladies all love wearing these in their hair or around the wrist.

The Jasminum sambac plant belongs to the jasmine family and is popularly known in the subcontinent as 'motia'. It is a hardy plant and grows throughout the year but flowers only in summer. It is commercially cultivated for use in Unani medicine, teas, perfumes, garlands and embellishments, though it's cultivation in homes is, sadly, dying out.

If one relishes the lingering aroma it leaves, its use can be taken far beyond a garland or a gajra to which it has been restricted. You can buy motia flowers in substantial quantities and spread a few in your pillow cases and a handful on your bedsheet. Fold neatly and put the bundle in a plastic/paper bag. The next time you use the bed sheet the aroma from it will astound you. Do this to all the linen, towels, bedsheets and bedspreads and savour the fragrance that fills the room.

Buy pretty earthen pots, and after filling them with water put a handful of motia flowers in each; keep in corner in every room. The simplistic beauty will enhance the decor of the room and, of course, the aroma will be an added delight. For added effect you can pack motia flowers in small containers/candle holders or tiny ceramic pots on formal dinner tables or as a daily routine and enjoy the impact both visual as well as olfactory.

For a new taste of green tea add a couple of motia flowers to the water after you have soaked the tea leaves. You can also add motia flowers to your green tea caddy and enjoy jasmine scented tea throughout the year.

Motia sherbet Boil four cups of sugar with two cups of water. Remove the scum as it rises. Let it boil for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add 6/7 handfuls of motia flowers when it is hot but not while it is boiling. Submerge the flowers with a metal spoon as they will keep floating otherwise. When the flowers are submerged, close the lid tightly, and keep overnight; strain and use the next day. You can't keep this sherbet for long as no preservatives have been added but it tastes like nectar. So relish it every season.