Monday, April 30, 2018

Hibiscus - Eat it or Wear it?

As a child I used to suck at the bottom part of a particular variety of the Hibiscus flower for it had a sweet honey-like liquid there. As far as I remember it was not the sort that opens fully. And, maybe, it was pink. It is also at that tender age that I tasted the sour clover leaf. 

As one grows up, one loses the delights of childhood explorations. And, today, it is rare to find children who have much joy in nature, even among those families who routinely indulge in nature treks.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Recently I discovered that the Butterfly Pea or Aparajita is used in the Malay cuisine. And, then, I had the brief honour of owning a passion flower plant that gave me a few blossoms before it withered away while I was out of town - this bloom is also a culinary ingredient.

While other flowers await their turn on the blog, let us visit the virtues of the red hibiscus that graces the picture above. I live in a rented flat and the three to four hibiscus trees in the garden were not planted by me. While I do like the one in the picture, I would have prefered that each plant produce a different coloured hibiscus. Those in my garden seem to include the China Rose, and the Pendulous Sleeping Hibiscus.

The Hibiscus is the na­tional flower of Malaysia, and they call it the Bunga Raya - bunga for flower and raya for cel­e­bra­tory or grand. The red stands for courage, life, and rapid growth. The five petals are the five Rukun Ne­gara and the flower adorns Malaysian currency.

The word bunga in Malay means "flower", while raya in Malay means "celebratory" or "grand". The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is literally known as the "celebratory flower" in Malay. The red of the petals symbolizes the courage, life, and rapid growth of the Malaysian, and the five petals represent the five Rukun Negara of Malaysia. The flower can be found imprinted on the notes and coins of the Malaysian ringgit.

The Hibiscus has 'power' in India, too.

On a hot summer’s day in Pondicherry, a floral drink goes down a treat. It’s not unusual to see people sipping tall glass of chilled hibiscus syrup diluted with water or soda. Most Auroville cafes serve the ‘power syrup’, made with the Avatar hibiscus juice produced by New School Crafts. Or just pick up a bottle of Auroville-based jam and jelly maker Naturellement’s hand-made hibiscus syrup (sold in supermarkets and boutiques) and sip it in the comfort of your home. Rs 399. Details:

As a child, in Puducherry, I have tasted the beverage. It was quite wonderful as I remember it!

Before I proceed with some recipes that use this flower and look at its benefits, and some other uses, I thought that it is better that you take a look at some cautions:

11 Side Effect of Hibiscus Tea 

While working on the post, I ended up making some Hibiscus 'tea'. I just added some washed flowers to half a litre of boiling water. I strained this after a while and bottled it and now add it to water and some sugar, etc. as required. I plan to continue making this flower juice as it was quite soothing. I use a bit of it with some other squashes that are around the house, as the taste is very light on its own.

How to make hibiscus tea + its benefits

Mbopar - Public Domain

Here's a selection of tasty sounding things to make with Hibiscus that I plan to try out:

Hibiscus Syrup

Paletas de Flor de Jamaica

The Gambia Hibiscus Flower Jam

I'm not so sure how this will be:

Hibiscus (Chembaruthi) Neer Dosa

There are a lot of recipes that use Hibiscus but I have only chosen those that use the red one that I have in my garden. The flower seems to have many benefits but one should be cautious about indiscriminate use and do not use if pregnant.  

9 Health Benefits Of Hibiscus

Ever since I moved into this flat I have, off and on, tried hibiscus as hair wash. I enjoyed the feeling and it felt good on the hair. However, it's best used if the hair has not been oiled as it does not remove excess oil. I've also used the pulp as body wash and that felt wonderful too. It makes a mess, no doubt. 

Basically, I washed and boiled some 15 leaves and flowers of the red hibiscus for some 10 minutes. I then blended the strained stuff and used that and the water on my hair. 

DIY Hibiscus Hair Care

As bonus, here's How to draw a Hibiscus flower step by step

A classic example of human engineering, Hibiscus is rich in variety and use - from use with nanoparticles for this and that to very earthy employments that are relished as every day fare or as delicacy.

Hopefully, I shall be able to explore some other flower powers in coming posts!

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