Remember Red Zinger tea? That pretty red color came from the fruit of the roselle plant, a member of the hibiscus family. Thanks to Hispanic and Caribbean food becoming more mainstream, we’re finding it used to flavor a whole world of drinks and treats.
Hibiscus meringues from The Little Tart Bakeshop
Sarah O’Brien and the bakers of The Little Tart Bakeshop are the city’s experts on all things sweet, savory, flaky and crisp. Their pastry case is always filled with croissants, tarts and Danish and lined up across the top with huge jars with cookies and European-style meringues. Our newest crush is their hibiscus meringue, made with Mr. Gigglepants sugar (a pretty pink combination of sugar and hibiscus) from Beautiful Briny Sea and then sprinkled with organic hibiscus powder. These aren’t little baby meringues. They’re a full four inches wide and almost three inches tall. They’re crisp with a caramelized sweetness from the low, slow baking it takes to produce their crisp texture, and the topping of hibiscus powder provides a lovely tart contrast.
$3 per meringue. Available at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market and at The Little Tart Bakeshop locations at 437 Memorial Drive SE and 99 Krog Street, Atlanta. https://www.littletartatl.com/
Fresh roselle from your local farmer
When you visit your local farmers market, you’ll find more and more farmers offering roselle. It’s a member of the hibiscus family, like cotton and okra. As a matter of fact, the red “flower” that is used to make hibiscus flavoring is the calyx, the same part of the plant as the edible part of okra. A field of roselle is gorgeous, with its tall magenta stems dotted with bright yellow flowers centered with magenta “eyes.” Vicky and Steve Fry of Fry Farm in Bethlehem have been growing roselle since 2014 when they were looking for a natural red food coloring to make Vicky’s mom’s red velvet cake. They bring the fresh calyces to market where their customers scoop them up for teas, cordials and to add to salads or to candy. The tart fruit is high in vitamin C and is often sold dried as well. Boil the fruit for tea, to make jelly or to make a rich, delicious syrup to serve with sparkling wine or water. The Frys will have recipes for you.
$5 per pint. Available through mid-October from Fry Farm at the Sandy Springs and Suwanee Farmers Markets. https://www.fry-farm.com/
Hibiscus Chutney from Pride Road
Pride Road is a veteran-owned company of three brothers (two currently serving in the Army) and their dad, a Vietnam vet. The Muhaimins farm 11 acres of hibiscus in Fayetteville. At harvest time, each calyx is handpicked and cored (there’s a hard seed that has to be removed from the center of each calyx) and the result is turned into hibiscus tea, hibiscus jelly, hibiscus granola, loose leaf tea, sparkling hibiscus juice and the product we tried, hibiscus chutney. No loose mixture, this chutney has a firm texture and is filled with bits of fresh hibiscus fruit as well as golden raisins, ginger, garlic and onion. Chutney is a traditional accompaniment to Indian food, but we are enjoying ours in some very fancy grilled cheese sandwiches.
$10 per 10-ounce jar. Available at the Truly Living Well booths at the East Point and Freedom farmers markets and Truly Living Well market at Collegetown Farm, at Calyroad Creamery in Sandy Springs, Farmview Market in Madison, Eden Fresh Market in Fayetteville or online at https://www.prideroad.com/.
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com