Rita shared her scrumptious candied Hibiscus recipe, as well as research from Dr. Kit Chin at the Southern University Ag Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, explaining that Dr. Chin has numerous plots with many different varieties brought to him by university staff from all over the world. Rita also referred me a article in the International Hibiscus society newsletter www.internationalhibiscussociety.org from which I have drawn heavily for this post.
|The flowers are edible, but it is grown mainly for its calyxes|
|Hibiscus Sabdariffa calyxes|
In most climates the calyxes are ready for picking in late summer or early fall. Harvesting should occur while the calyxes are plump and juicy and before any woody tissue develops. Calyxes can be easily air dried in a cool place out of the sun, or in humid climates, spread them out on a tray and dry them indoors in a spot with good air circulation.
Hibiscus sabdariffa, originally native to tropical Africa, is frost tender and requires good, well-drained soil, a warm sunny garden spot and at least four months with warm night time temperatures. Plants grow into a shrubby form with reddish purple stems, branches, leaf veins, and leaf stems. Plants like regular watering, and a good mulch will also assist in conserving moisture. To avoid disease problems, don’t plant this hibiscus in the same place year after year.
Seed should be started indoors about eight weeks before nighttime temperatures are reliably 50 to 55°F – about the same time you might start pepper plants indoors. When seedlings have several sets of true leaves, and are large enough to handle, transplant into 3-4 inch individual pots.
When nighttime temperatures are warm and settled and above 55°F, transplant well developed seedlings into the garden in a warm spot with full sun all day. If you want large crop to make jam, planting in beds would be best, but if the main use is to make tea, two or three plants each in a 12-18 inch in diameter pot should be convenient and sufficient. Container grown plants should be watered regularly and fertilized monthly.
|2-3 ft plants grow in full sun in beds or containers|
This syrup will keep for at least a year. Once opened, it will keep for at least several months if refrigerated. The syrup is delicious over crepes, fresh fruit, custard, ice cream.
To make a cordial, a very small quantity of syrup can be added to a glass and filled with sparkling water.
5 cups sugar
4 cups water
4 cups calyces, chopped
Heat the sugar and water in a large saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the calyxes and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the volume of liquid is reduced by a third. Remove from the heat and strain. Bottle the syrup while still hot into clean jars or bottles and seal. The strained calyxes can be eaten as a dessert with ice cream or custard.
Per cup: put 4-5 fresh or dried hibiscus calyxes in a deep mug and pour boiling water over them, then steep for 2-3 minutes for a refreshing cup of herbal tea. Also tastes delicious iced and garnished with a slice of fresh lemon lime or orange.
CANDIED CALYXES – from Rita Salman
For a dessert garnish, candy the calyxes in a strong sugar syrup of 2 parts sugar and 1 part water. Place cleaned calyxes into the hot syrup after removing it from the heat. Cool the calyxes in the sugar solution, preferably overnight. Remove and place bottom down on a rack to drain and dry. Once dried, they may be stored in an airtight container for months and used as required.
Rita drops a candied calyx in flutes of champagne which turns the bubbly a glorious ruby color, and is always a big hit at gatherings of friends and family.
4 cups calyxes, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 cooking apple, cored, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of powdered ginger
1 cup of water
Place all ingredients in a medium-sized stainless-steel saucepan over a high heat and bring to the boil. Stir constantly to dissolve the sugar, then lower the heat and simmer until thickened (about 45 minutes). Stir occasionally and adjust heat if needed. When ready, pour into sterilized jars and seal while hot. It will keep 6 months in the pantry but refrigerate after opening. Good with rich meats as the sharp tang helps cut richness or fattiness.
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 cup calyces, roughly chopped
Boil the sugar and water for 5 minutes and allow to cool. Puree the calyxes in a food processor or blender, slowly add the sugar syrup and blend. Strain through a fine sieve to remove pulp. Serve with rich creamy desserts, berries, peaches or nectarines or over ice cream.