Thursday, November 6, 2008

Roselle, My Cup of Zing

I’m a big fan of hibiscus. We always had them in our yard when I was growing up in the islands. In the morning I’d look for a bud just about to bloom and I'd take it to school to give it to my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Chang. Throughout the school day I’d watch the bud slowly, slowly unfold, until it was a huge red blossom worthy of the Kodak Hula Show when the final bell rang and it was time to go home. I never saw her do it, but of course she tossed the spent blossom before she headed home, since the flower lasts only a day. Who knows, it probably even made my teacher a little more forgiving of my transgressions, too.

Now I grow several native and introduced hibiscus in my backyard, and this year I added an edible one called Roselle, Hibiscus sabdariffa. A fellow gardener gave me some seeds in the spring, and to my surprise they actually germinated and grew into something quite spectacular and delightful this fall.

Like other hibiscus, this robust shrub is easy to grow. Its lovely pale blossoms tinged with pink are a favorite of those big black carpenter bees, but I don’t mind sharing. I’m after only the calyx, which makes a delicious tea – it’s the main ingredient in the Red Zinger you buy in the store, and it’s used in favorite beverages all over the world. Check out its other uses here.

To make tea, break up a few calyxes (discard the seed capsule), bruise up them up a little, add boiling water and let steep 5- 8 minutes. You can add sweetener, but I like it as it is just as well. So 'ono with some of my
honey-sweet Navel oranges that I share with friends and family.

To make roselle sauce, put clean calyxes in a pan with enough water to cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes, then add sweetener to taste. Cool and serve with your favorite dessert – ice cream, cheesecake…oooh.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I live in Honolulu and I am wondering if you know where to get this hibiscus variety, either a plant or seeds. Any info is welcome.

Janice said...

The best would be to find a fellow seed-saving gardener on your island and exchange seed with them. Sometimes there are seed exchanges or sales by school gardens and nonprofits.

One company I like to order from is Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, They carry heirloom and certified organic seeds. (In their online shop they have Hibiscus sabdariffa under the "Herbs" section.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the website, I found the seeds there.