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BOB MORRIS: Pick hibiscus at its peak for herb tea

Question: I have a roselle hibiscus plant. I’m trying to make the Mexican agua de jamaica. It has grown well and has many flowers, but I am afraid I will lose it if I don’t harvest and dry it correctly. When do I harvest it, and how do I dry it?

There is an herb tea made from the flowers of this plant, and the tea is called Red Zinger commercially. Another part of this flower also is used in salads for a flavor hard to match.

Collect flowers at the peak of their opening or just after they have folded, but you must not wait too long. This will provide the flavoring you are looking for. The flowers can be dried in the open air, in a food dehydrator or used fresh.

Drying temperatures should never exceed about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. When the flowers are completely dried, you can pulverize the flower and flower parts for storage in a canister.

For salads, you can wait until the inside bottom of the flower (the part that will become the seed capsule) is still fleshy and harvest it to be used fresh. I believe these are the so-called fruits that are used in salads and other dishes.

Bob Morris is a professor emeritus in horticulture with the University of Nevada and can be reached at extremehort@aol.com. Visit his blog at
xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com.

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