Also called Flame of the Forest, the plant grows as a medium-sized tree and is a native to India. The tree grows up to 40 feet high and has a distinctive appearance due to its grey bark, irregular branches and crooked trunk. The pinnate leaves have three leaflets each, which also refers to the very famous Hindi saying, ‘dhaak ke teen paat.’ The tree doesn’t flower until January. From January to March, the tree is laden with orange-vermillion flowers. The flowers have five petals with a beak-shaped keel. Birds are the main pollinators of the flowers. The flowers grow in clusters on leafless branches. Palash or tesu, with their striking hue, are most associated with Holi. The flowers, soaked in water, produce a colour that has traditionally been used to celebrate this festival.
The subtly-flavoured palash or tesu flower not only has medicinal properties, but also makes for cooling summer sherbets and some amazing dishes.
For centuries, the flowers have also been appreciated for their medicinal uses (as have other parts of the tree, like the bark and the seeds). But like a number of other flowers, such as banana, moringa, rose and marigold, they’ve also been put to culinary use in India, most frequently to prepare cooling drinks. The flower has a very mild floral taste, with an earthy bitter undertone. Because of this, it goes well with other ingredients such as saunf, khas or mint.
- Tesu flowers are used to make natural colour during the festival of Holi.
- The flowers are the perfect way to control and manage indoor pollutants.
- In tribal areas, women use the flowers to adorn themselves.
- Palash flowers are believed to have religious value and are used in havan or yagna ceremonies.
- Palash is considered a sacred tree and the Indian Postal Department also issued a postal stamp to celebrate the value the flower adds to the Indian landscape.
- Palash / Butea Monosperma is the state flower of Jharkhand.
- It is also believed that palash is the form of the God of life himself- Agni.
- Each part of this tree, from flowers to leaves, bark, seed, stem and gum, are of use. The tree has been used extensively in alternative medicines such as Unani, Homeopathy and Ayurveda medicines for its analgesic, aphrodisiac and antifertility properties.
Medicinal Uses of Palash
- Palash bark is applied externally to treat wounds and cuts.
- Palash seeds are often used to treat worm infestation. The seeds are also laxative in nature.
- The gum can be used to treat dysentery and diarrhoea.
- Dried flowers are used as colour and in bathing to cure skin rashes and infection in summers. The flowers are rich in sulphur, which makes them a perfect treatment for skin ailments. The flowers purify and cleanse the bloodstream of free radicals. The paste of flowers is also applied externally to cure joint pains, swelling, sprains, injury and arthritis. The bark of the tree also has blood purifying properties.
- The concoction made by flowers is beneficial in menstrual cramps.
- Fruits and seeds of the plant are used to treat skin ulcers, piles and disorders related to eyes such as cataract.
- Roots of a palash tree are used as an analgesic. They are also used to cure night blindness.
Tesu Ke Phool – Edible Flower Recipes
- Palash Sherbet
- Dry palash flowers- a large handful
- Sugar/jaggery/rock sugar- to taste
- Fennel seeds
- Cumin powder
- Pepper powder
- Mint leaves
- Black salt
- Lemon juice – optional
Soak the flowers, sugar and fennel in five glasses of water for four to six hours or until the flowers lose their colour. Stir well, strain and serve chilled. Add lemon juice, black salt, cumin powder, pepper powder and fresh mint leaves before serving.
- Tesu Phool Vegetable
Serves : 4-6
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
- Fresh Flowers of Palash: 250gms
- Ghee: 200gms
- Onions – chopped: 200gms
- Garlic – chopped finely: 50 gms
- Bay leaf: 2 number
- Cinnamon stick : 1
- Black cardamom: 2
- Cumin seed whole: 3 gms
- Red chilly dry: 3-4
- Hing ( Asafoetida ) : 5 gms
- Dried green mango powder : 5 gms
- Fresh lemon juice: 15 gms
- Salt to taste
- Place petals in water.
- Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, black cardamom, and lemon juice.
- Boil them together for 10-15 minutes. Then remove them from the water.
- Separate the petals from the spices and squeeze them gently to drain the excess water.
- Heat ghee in a pan and add chopped garlic. Fry it to golden brown.
- Add onion slices and cook them till tender.
- Add cumin seeds, dry red chilies and stir.
- Add a dash of hing then petals, salt, dry mango powder and stir gently.
- Cover the pan on a low heat for 5-10 minutes.
- Open the lid, stir well and serve hot with chapattis / paranthas.