I have been perplexed by these crimson succulent-looking flowers at the farmer's market. I have tasted the leaves a few times, they are tart, cranberry-like. But what to do with them?
Roselle, I found out, is a type of hibiscus used in cuisines all over the world, and is also known as Sorrel and Jamaica (in Spanish). Many parts of the plant are edible and nutritious, but the petals are most commonly used in jams and drinks. The petals are actually the calyx (like the green stem-top of the tomato or persimmon), and they are sort of succulent, being somewhat related to the okra plant.
There are a lot of health benefits of Roselle. It is high in vitamin C, calcium and iron, and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The American Heart Association did a study that showed that 3 cups of hibiscus tea a day for 6 weeks significantly lowered systolic blood pressure in people with hypertension.
For the Farmer's Market, I decided to make a refreshing tea from the Roselle calyces, and I tried a few variations. My favorites were this fruity-gingery recipe below, and another with infusion of cucumber and lime-basil. Feel free to cook some Roselle and then add your favorite flavors for different variations.
The Ginger Turmeric Honey Bomb is a spicy-sweet honey product made by one of the local vendors at the Saturday Morning Market. The blend of honey with lots of ginger, turmeric and spices adds a ton of flavor, sweetness, and immune-boosting properties to this tea as well. I added fresh juice from the local citrus vendor to highlight and sweeten the tartness of the Roselle, and infused the tea with slices of pineapple. I have to say, it is a winning combination!
Heart-Healthy Immune-Boosting Roselle Tea
2 pints of fresh Roselle, seeds removed (note below)
12 cups spring water
3-4 oranges, juiced
2 cups of sliced/diced pineapple
4 oz jar of Ginger Turmeric Honey Bomb
To remove the Roselle seeds: Cut the stem side off at about the line of the small petals near the stem. The seed pod should easily pop out. Discard the seed pod and keep only the petals for cooking, plus any parts of the red stem that don't have seeds attached.
Bring the Roselle and water to a boil, and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the Roselle has lost most of its color and is soft. Pour through a sieve into a pitcher or glass jar. Add the Honey Bomb and stir to dissolve. Add the orange juice and pineapple slices. Refrigerate and serve cold.