Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seriously Sexy Flowers

This is a reprint of a 2010 AbsoluteTrygve post.
Every once in a while I feel like one of those little springy creatures, like a fawn or a colt; the ones that hop on stiff legs when they see a bee, or feel the sun, or just have to frisk about. I tumbled out of the car this morning, right into Frangipani heaven, and for a few seconds it was just me, and 245 kilos of frangipani (Plumeria) flowers waiting to go into the extractors. I nearly strangled myself with the camera as I rolled about laughing. I mean, come on!
245 kilos of frangipani flowers. Am I in the right business or what?
Soon enough I was hopping and dorking and snapping dozens and dozens of pictures of the same thing!

These pretty little sweet ones come from the Husur Forest just over the border in Karnataka! Yes, they are WILD frangipanis. I had to sit down for that one. And not only that, but last year, once, during the picking, which is late at night, wild elephants came and the pickers had to flee up trees where they sat all night, waiting for the elephants to leave. I mean, come on! Can you even make this stuff up? I am ready right now to go back to that Husur Forest, that I drove through yesterday, and go looking for a clearing with a lake for the elephants, full of wild frangipanis……

How much concrete and absolute will 245 kilos of frangipani flowers make? About a half kilo of concrete and then 200 grams of absolute. As you might have been able to tell from the photo, frangipani flowers are very fragile. When I pick a few at the Crown Plaza, in Salalah, and carefully drop them into a scarf, and gently put them down on the seat, and drive maybe 2 minutes home… least one will have already bruised. These ones have come overnight by truck from the forest 280 km away, but this is the way it is, and it’s the norm for frangipani.

Then he goes into the hexane extractors for 3 hexane washes of 2 hours each and then a steam rinse. If you are one of those people who doesn’t like absolutes, then really I’m sorry, but you are cutting off your nose to spite your face1 These flowers don’t talk to water! They’re not interested! Is it for us to say?

Frangipani absolute resembles nothing so much as raw honey that has sat for a while in your cupboard. It’s golden and somewhat texturally knobbly and viscous even, but of course it smells like heavens honey! I don’t know whether I want to spread it on toast or my pillow! Or just dance through a forest of this blossoming bounty wearing only butterflies and frangipanis in my hair!

Ok, I know, I’m a little out of control. But you think Enfleurage smells good? Well, our flower extractor has us beat. This is Mr. L, who does all the major jasmines, better than anyone, and tuberose, champaka, lotus, mimosa (be still my heart,) frangipani and rose: absolutes, concretes, and waxes, obviously. If you do absolutes, you have to have the others, n’est pas?

He is now branching out a bit and has started a couple of essential oils as well: the usual grasses, curry leaf, tulsi (Holy Basil,) and the most swooningist, sublime, nectarine fleshed Davana I have tried. It’s not quite ready so I have only a sample to carry around like a pup with a squeak toy, but rest assured, I will broadcast his arrival when he does come! I expect him one day, soft sweet plums, guavas, nectarines and sweet hay, like cherry cordial and smooth silken peach.
Waiting for a hexane wash

How many kilos of flowers make a kilo of concrete? It takes

2200 kilos of tuberose flowers
170 of mimosa
400 of jasmine grandiflorum
750 of sambac
1200 of roses
and lotus is 1500! But the flowers are so rare it’s really just for interests sake.

Local Gods
And this brings me a sad little aside. I was coming to see frangipani, yes, and champaka, tuberose, lotus and mimosa. But it looks like frangipani is the whole pie. Why? Because there are not other flowers—maybe, perhaps 8-10 kilos of champaka blossoms will come tonight, but not a half ton. The culprit is Climate Change, a topic that for some reason is still controversial in the US, like there’s not enough proof. (The US is the only country that doesn’t get it I think?) Well, whatever, here in Tamil Nadu you can see it, in the last year in particular, both the climate and the monsoon have gone too whack to ignore. There is not enough rain at the proper time, the monsoon has shifted, it varies, and so does the temperature. The flowers are in chaos. They are slow to flower if they do at all, and then it rains when it shouldn’t, and spoils the crop. We should have tuberose, but with no rain, there are no flowers. And also with no rain, no ponds, so no lotus. Last year the mimosa bounty was a ton. This year it’s 200 kg only. Mr L has been in this business for 25 years, and even taking into account the usual vagaries of climate, this is new. He hopes it will improve next year, go back to normal, or it will be “a problem.”

So there you have it: happiness and hideousness.

Well, I slammed a few seriously sexy oils in about 10 days: agarwood, sandalwood, jasmines and champaka, frangipani and mimosa, tuberose and davana. Now I will go have a poke around some backroads, and see what happens. You never know.

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