Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In The Kitchen – Growing Your Own Hibiscus Treats

I was pleased to find out so much about our Hibiscus sabdariffa from Rita Salman of the wonderful Baton Rouge Herb Society
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 from which I have drawn heavily for this post.
The flowers are edible, but it is grown mainly for its calyxes
Hibiscus sabdariffa is grown mainly for its calyxes not the flowers, (although the flower is also edible.) The calyxes either fresh or dried make a fine ruby-red, herbal tea with the flavor reminiscent of cranberries with citrus overtones. Because they are rich in antioxidants, acid and pectin, the calyxes are ideal to use for great tasting drinks, preserves and relishes. The plant also has a number of common traditional names such as Red Sorrel, Roselle or Rosella. It’s also the major ingredient of the popular tea known as “Red Zinger.”
Hibiscus Sabdariffa calyxes
Hibiscus sabdariffa is grown as an annual. The 2-3 inch flowers only last one day, opening lemon and fading to pink. At the bottom of each flower, enclosing the bases of the five petals, is a fleshy bright red cup-like structure called a calyx. The calyx is about 2.5 cm (an inch) in diameter. After the flower dies, the calyx around the flower enlarges. The calyx is bright red and should be harvested after the sepals close and the seedpod is formed.

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
These heirloom plants with their tasty calyxes are a unique and valuable addition to the kitchen garden. Here are some recipes to try – the syrup makes a delicious cool drink or dessert topping, the tea is both restorative and refreshing, the relish is delicious and a glorious color, and the candied calyxes are a perfect festive treat.

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.


S. K. said...

For the cordial/syrup recipe, is that fresh calyxes? If so, what amount of dried calyxes would I use? We typically grow 5 or 6 Roselle plants and what we don't use immediately, is dried for use throughout the year. Thanks

Renee Shepherd said...

Kathy, Renee says you should definitely use dried calyxes for the cordial recipe (using the indicated amount). Enjoy!

Nikkolai the Lazy Harp Seal said...

My 7week old Roselle have leaves with light-colored spotting. Is this a nutrient deficiency? A de-hydrated symptom, or un-happiness from the cooler temperatures being so close to a window?

Also, I'd like to mention that I think the instructions to re-pot when the hibiscus has several sets of true leaves hasn't fit my experience. This hibiscus' cotyledon is so huge that I was ready to put it in a 3" after it sprung just one true leaf.

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