an EAT post from my archives
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We’re already into late spring, but I’m taking a short hiatus from intensive gardening to share a couple hibiscus recipes.
Spring Garden Salad
I made this special salad entirely from my spring garden. From the cool season beds I’d planted six weeks earlier, I got two kinds of kale, Swiss chard, radishes, green onions, and a little arugula. (The lettuce I planted did not come up. I’m thinking the seeds were probably too old.) I meant to put pea shoots in the salad, too, but I forgot! I also added a some amaranth greens (the purple leaves), Lamb’s Quarters, and dill. All of these seed themselves and come up on their own. Of course, I HAD to add all the edible flowers that were blooming: chives, Bachelor’s Buttons, and Golden Gem Marigolds. I just LOVE edible flowers!
You don’t see any hibiscus flowers in the salad, but they’re in there—in the dressing! The above picture shows what I put into the salad dressing: hibiscus vinegar, olive oil, local honey, no-salt seasoning, plus parsley, chives, and rose thyme from my garden. Yes, the rose thyme really smells and tastes like rose petals. It has been thriving in my herb bed for several years now. It is definitely hardier than common thyme, and it even seems to be hardier than lemon thyme, too.
I didn’t really measure out the ingredients. You can see how much oil and vinegar I put into the Bullet Blender cup—about 1/4 cup hibiscus vinegar and 1/3 cup olive oil. I added 2-3 teaspoons of honey and blended it. Then I added 1 teaspoon of no-salt seasoning, and I used kitchen scissors to cut the herbs you see into the cup before blending it again for a little bit. If I were planning to keep this dressing to use later, I would also add 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard to help keep it emulsified.
Jamaica (Hibiscus) Punch
As you may have noticed, I used a store bought hibiscus vinegar in my vinaigrette. Alas, I have not grown the kind of hibiscus best for culinary use: Hibiscus sabdariffa. Fortunately, dried hibiscus flowers are readily available in various ethnic markets and online (but not always certified organic, alas). This fact makes it easy serve edible flowers year round, whether you grow any or not.
Here’s a sampling of dried hibiscus available at a local supermarket. I included a box of Red Zinger because hibiscus is the main ingredient in that tea blend, and it has rosehips, too. You may have already had some edible flower tea without knowing it!
Different countries give this flower different names, including Jamaica and Rosa de Jamaica. Actually it is the calyxes, not the flowers, that are used. I have taken to combining hibiscus tea with Jamaican style ginger beer to make a red punch drink that I like to call Jamaica Punch. Ginger beer, like root beer and ginger ale, is non-alcoholic (except for a few varieties—check the label), and it has much more flavor than ginger ale, which usually doesn’t even have ginger in it.
Other hibiscus products are a little harder to find, but they’re out there. The hibiscus flowers in syrup are a great way to make any drink, including my Jamaica Punch, extra special. Put a few drops of the syrup and a flower in the bottom of a pretty goblet or champagne flute, and then add hibiscus tea and ginger beer, or sparkling water or champagne—anything! I guarantee you will impress your guests and make them feel special.