Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans; a Tuesdays with Dorie post

IMG_4417Isn’t it wonderful when several of your favorite things come together?  Everyone who visits this blog knows I love to garden and that baking is what I do professionally.  But I am betting that not many of you know that I have a thing for hibiscus plants, specifically, Hibiscus sabdariffa.  More commonly known as Roselle, this is the variety of hibiscus used to make tea.  Just look at that bloom; how could you not love it?

IMG_4424While the flower is pretty, and edible, it is a day flower which means it opens for a day and then dies.  As soon as the bloom withers, the plant begins producing seeds in the calyx.  To make tea, you must gather them before the pod swells with immature seeds.  It takes quite a few to make a pot of tea!  Because of this, I generally plant 3 or 4 of them around the garden and yard.  They can get quite large if the conditions are right; lots of direct sun, plenty of moisture but not soggy.

IMG_4431If you are looking at this plant and are thinking that it looks like okra, you are right!  Hibiscus is also related to cotton and if you spend time in garden centers, you will find that there are lots of perennial and annual varieties of hibiscus.  Unfortunately, this variety will not survive a freeze which means you must overwinter it indoors or start over each spring which is what I do.  The seeds need heat and will not germinate until the soil is warm.  Start them indoors or wait until about May to plant seeds outdoors.

img_4439They will begin blooming in late summer and that is when you will have calyxes to collect.  Spread them out and dry them completely, I do it in the oven with just the light on.  Then when dry, you can store them in a glass jar.

img_7400So what does this plant have to do with baking?  This week’s recipe from Baking Chez Moi calls for hibiscus tea!  This recipe mixed up quickly and easily and when it was all said and done, I sent these, along with the Valentine’s Share-A-Heart cookies to my girls for Valentine’s Day.  They loved them!

img_7401Devon called hers a little pink pizza and looking at that shot, I can see why.  However, they tasted like no pizza I have ever eaten!  Crispy and flaky and full of vanilla(I was out of rose water) and with just a hint of tangy, floral notes from the hibiscus tea.

img_7404The recipe does not call for much tea so I only used a few calyxes-whizzed them in the spice grinder.  My thought is that next time, and there will be a next time, I will use double the amount.  After all, summer is coming and I will have more plants in the garden!

img_7405Join us sometime!  We love the company.  Pick up a copy of Baking Chez Moi and bake along with us.  To see how the rest of the bakers did, visit the website.

hibiscus in the garden


When Darry and I first became active with the Master Gardeners, I had an opportunity to plan a small herb garden.  The beds were arranged in a circle, like spokes on a wheel and each bed featured a different collection of herbs.  To fill out the wheel, I used one bed to grow edible flowers.  It was then that a small obsession of mine became obvious and every year, I have plants in the garden just for the flowers.

Hibiscus Sabdariffa, commonly called Roselle, has earned a spot in my garden each year and not only are the flowers pretty, but they are easy to care for and produce many blooms.  The foliage will look familiar to seasoned vegetable gardeners because hibiscus resembles another popular garden plant; okra.  And like okra, and other hibiscus varieties, the flowers are short-lived and are only open for a day.  While some may be disappointed by this quick life, if you are hoping to make tea from the flowers, you want them to close quickly so you can harvest the best part; the calyx.

The flowers start out yellow with a hint of blush on the tip of each petal and as the day wears on, they darken to a beautiful shade of peachy-pink.

The plants bloom in succession starting at the bottom of the stalk moving towards the tip of the branch.  If you remove each blossom as it closes, you will encourage the plant to bloom more.  It takes a lot of blooms to make jam or syrup but for a cup of tea, you will need just a handful.  The calyx needs to be picked before it forms a seed pod so you will have to check each day for the spent blooms.  When I pick the blooms, I lay them on a tray and place them in the oven to dry using the heat generated by the oven light.  

Finding seeds for these lovely plants is not hard, if you know a gardener who is growing them, ask them for a fully formed seed pod.  Each year I save a few pods for the next year.  Otherwise, my favorite source for seed is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  To learn more about hibiscus, read about them on the wikipedia website,