Plant Potential: Heidi Swanson - Hibiscus
In this series, we spotlight the boundless potential of a single ingredient.
Long Beach, California-based cookbook author, enthusiastic home cook, and photographer Heidi Swanson crafted two refreshing recipes with hibiscus. The star ingredient is very high in Vitamin C and is globally beloved in endless beverages and culinary preparations. Heidi uses them in relishes, rehydrated and chopped as a salad ingredient or taco filling, and in ice creams and sorbets.
Chef: Heidi Swanson
3 go-to ingredients that double as immunity: Raw honey, chiles, and young ginger.
Must-have ingredient that delivers an energy boost: A shot of freshly squeezed blood orange juice.
Ultimate comfort food: A simple bowl of rice.
Favorite healing ingredient: An assertive broth.
Beauty mantra: Eat, drink, and appreciate the incredible rainbow of natural ingredients.
One of the first things I planted in our community garden plot was hibiscus (hibiscus sabdariffa). It's also commonly known as roselle or Jamaica and the spiky red calyxes have an exceptionally high antioxidant level. Basically, the plant grows, and eventually, beautiful showy blossoms appear. The flowers wither, drop, and you're left with spiky ruby-red calyxes. You can harvest and use them immediately or dry for later use. Or, you can buy them of course! I included this Hibiscus-Coco Iced Tea in my newest cookbook Super Natural Simple, and the Vitamin C Honey has been a pantry staple for years.
Fill a tall glass with ice, add equal parts iced hibiscus tea and unsweetened coconut water, and a giant squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. It's brisk and refreshing as is, but sweeten to taste if you like your tea a bit less tart.
VITAMIN C HONEY
I buy nearly all of the ingredients here in bulk at a natural foods co-op. They're also readily available online. If you can't find one of the ingredients I call for, no big deal. Leave it out, or add another spice or powder you like! Pitaya powder is tricky to source (and can be pricey!), so you can totally leave it out. Maybe crush up some freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries instead. You might use powdered ginger in place of the cayenne, etc. Use this recipe as a jumping-off point!
*The acerola cherry powder really brings the tang here, you might also experiment with camu camu powder, also super tangy. Lastly, vitamin C rich (start with a lot less, and add to taste). Have fun!
Combine the cayenne, pitaya, hibiscus, acerola cherry powder, and rosehip powder in a small bowl. Add the powders to the honey and stir, stir, stir. Stir until the honey becomes uniform in color. Place in a dark spot, and leave overnight. Stir again the next morning, taste, and adjust with more cayenne, vitamin C powder, hibiscus powder, or pitaya. Store in a dark place. Enjoy!
A last little tip: if your powders get clumpy over time, you can re-powder them by pounding in a mortar and pestle. You can also crush dried hibiscus into a powder the same way for use here.