Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fun in the Garden - Roselle

Roselle Calyx
A new addition to our perennial garden at the VegHeadz garden drew a lot of interest at the Fall Festival and from our volunteer gardeners.  Roselle Hibiscus sabdariffa) or Jamaican Sorrell, or Flor de Jamaica is a wild hibiscus grown in many tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world. 

We successfully grew it from seed we planted this Spring.  We will see if it is truly perennial in our area, or if we will need to reseed it next Spring.

It is a beautiful plant with pale yellow flowers with a red area at the base of each petal.  The flowers yielded to beautiful deep red calyxes which contain a seed capsule inside. 

All parts of the plant are edible, and provide a tart refreshing taste to salads and other dishes.  The plant is grown for fiber from the stems which is used in making burlap, and the calyxes are harvested for use as food coloring and in teas, drinks, jams and sauces.  They can be used fresh or dried.  The basic ingredient in Red Zinger tea is dried Roselle.

Internet references are confusing as they often refer to hibiscus flowers when it is actually the calyx that is being sold or used.

Roselle Flower

Before using the calyxes, you must remove the seed capsule.  It is hard to do this with out demolishing the petals of the calyx, but with a simple tool this can be accomplished rather easily.  We found a foot long section of 1/2" copper tubing in the plumbing section at Lowe's.  It had the advantage of being closed on one end to avoid injury while using it.  You may want to wear gloves when removing the seed capsules as the calyx will be slightly crushed and stain your hands.  It does wash off easily though. 

Insert tool into the bottom of the calyx.  We sharpened ours just
a bit to make it easier to cut through

Twist and push the pipe through the layers at the bottom of the
calyx into the seed capsule and out through the top of the calyx

The seed capsule is not yet mature.  To save seeds allow it
to mature and open on the plant

Calyxes ready for drying or use in teas, sauces, and drinks
A friend had given us a small jar of "Wild Hibiscus in Syrup," which is in fact these very calyxes preserved in sugar syrup.  We have now made our own.  See recipe below.  Pour a little of the syrup in the bottom of a wine glass and add one of the preserved calyxes.  Carefully add white wine or champagne much in the manner of making Kir.  Delicious.  Or use as a sauce over ice cream or pound cake, or add to fruit salad.  They can be cooked and used like cranberry sauce and taste very similar.  Before cooking, wash the calyxes well to remove any grit or other foreign matter.

The calyxes are rich in Vitamin C and other beneficial compounds.  We've enjoyed watching this beautiful plant develop and yield its secrets.  Thanks to Farnaz Khoshbakht who was visiting in the garden for the photos. 

Roselle Calyxes Preserved in Syrup
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups whole Roselle calyxes (1 cup if chopped)
Heat the sugar and water until sugar is completely dissolved.  Add washed calyxes, bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer.  Continue cooking until liquid is reduced by one-third.  Cool.  Strain if you wish just syrup or leave whole calyxes in the syrup to use in cocktails and desserts.  The syrup will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to a year.   

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting experiment, it will be fun to see how it turns out in the future.