A few kilometers from Phnom Penh, in the province of Kandal, the village of Kroh Kroubey is best known for its jasmine farms.
Every morning, a sweet, floral scent permeates Saruon’s home and field as his wife delicately threads buds of the purest white onto thin stems. This is the best time of year for harvesting the flowers from their modest jasmine farm in Koh Kroubey in Kandal Province, a region renowned for its farms growing this iconic fragrant flower, because the monsoon rains push the shrubs to produce a profusion of perfumed blossoms.
With the help of two employees, Saruon harvests the pale green jasmine buds early each morning before the flowers have bloomed. The fragrant buds are then sold to wholesalers and nearby markets.
“At this time, the shrubs bloom abundantly and the price of jasmine becomes relatively low, $10 per kilo,” but from December on, the plants produce far fewer flowers, so the price can rise to $25 per kilo.”
Thanks to its sweet fragrance and pure-white petals, jasmine is often used to make offerings to the Buddha. The word “jasmine” derives from the Persian “yasmin”, meaning ‘gift of the gods’. Buds and flowers are also used in decorative arrangements for temples, festivals, birthdays and weddings. The flowers are also added to holy water used for blessings by Buddhist monks.
There are two main types of jasmine offerings: Je kah is a thin stick with buds surrounding it, usually with a red flower at the end of it, and pum melei is a circular garland, which devotees put around the neck of Buddha statues.
When the directors of Thalias Hospitality Group were looking for a name for their new Cambodian restaurant, they chose Malis, from the Khmer word p’kah maleas, because of its links to Buddhist cultures and the principles of purity and respect it represents.
In addition to the local significance and the religious aspect, Chef Luu Meng also decided to incorporate the jasmine flower in the recipes of the Malis restaurant, especially in our desserts. Food lovers will certainly appreciate the Malis Mousse, a light cream infused with jasmine flower with notes of Cambodian honey and ginger, trimmed with fresh seasonal fruits and served with crispy rice and coconut ice cream, for example…
The villagers of Koh Kroubey have a long tradition of jasmine cultivation, using techniques have been passed down from generation to generation. Although the crops are not as abundant or lucrative as rice, jasmine is a year-round crop and requires little maintenance once the trees are mature (after two years).
Jasmine plants do not require any pesticides or chemical fertilisers, just vegetable compost. The trees are cut down after three to four years to encourage flower and bud growth. As for income, Saron explains, “You don’t get very rich, but this activity is enough to feed the family properly.
Adapted from an article in: Cambodge Mag