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Friday Flowers: Hibiscus

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:14pm
Each spring, I treat myself to a small hibiscus plant for my deck similar to the one above that was in my brother's garden in Mexico. These showy flowers are a delight, each vivid bloom lasting only a day, but with the assurance of a new blossom or two to replace it. I have tried bringing them indoors in the fall, but they do not do well in our dry, heated air.

There are over 200 species of hibiscus, or rosemallow. They have five petals and a prominent, trumpet-shaped stamen. I took the picture above in the garden at the home of one of my patients. The bloom of this hybrid perennial giant hibiscus was at least a foot in diameter.
I have this hardy Rose of Sharon shrub in my backyard which is also a type of hibiscus. It flowers in the late summer and fall until the frosts come. The flowers are only two to three inches in diameter.

Jamaica ( pronounced ham-I-ca ) is a popular drink in Mexico. My mother buys bags of the dried calyces of roselle flowers ( Hibiscus sabdariffa) and makes the refreshing drink like this.

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Flower Drink) recipe

2/3 cup dried hibiscus blossoms
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup granulated sugar or simple syrup

In a saucepan, bring the blossoms and water to a boil over high heat and continue boiling for 3 minutes. Add enough water to bring the total liquid to 4 cups; add sugar.
Set the mixture aside for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Strain the liquid into a glass pitcher.
Add more sugar, if necessary.

Serve chilled over ice with lime wedges as a garnish.

Roselle flowers are used in the middle east and north Africa to make a tea called Karkade (KAR-kah-day).This tart, fruity tea can be served hot or cold and with or without sugar. Similar beverages are also found in other African and Asian countries.

I am not a fan of sweet drinks and prefer a robust cuppa black tea to herbal infusions. But I can admire the beauty of a fresh hibiscus blossom, whether it is a showy tropical import in a pot or a native perennial species such as swamp rose mallow in a garden or marsh.
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