Friday, April 30, 2010

Healing Hibiscus

Although most people are familiar with the hibiscus as a flower Hawaiian woman tuck behind one ear to indicate availability for marriage, this delicate flower has many other uses and healing properties.

Hibiscus is dried and brewed all other the world for health benefits. It is known to lower blood pressure and control cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. I personally suffer from a heart condition am trying to lose weight. I have noticed a significant difference in my blood pressure and believe it is helping with my weight loss as well.

The extract from the flower lowers cholesterol content int he blood and treat liver disorders. It's rich in vitamin C, is caffeine free and has a smooth pleasant fragrance. Hibiscus tea also contains a number of enzyme inhibitors and affects the absorption of dietary fats and carborhdrates. It will block the absorption of sugars, it's cleansing and anti-bloating properties will help the body rid of excess fluids contributing to weight loss, expecially in menopausal woman.

The Pharaohs of the ancient Nile Valley would refresh themselves from the desert heat by drinking the crimson tea. Many cultures around the world today still favor this tea for refreshment and its healing properties.

Hibiscus (Jamaica) Tea is available in most Latin food sections of the supermarket.

Hibiscus Tea

6 Cups Water
4 oz Dried Hibiscus Flowers
1/2 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
Sugar or Sweetner to Taste (I prefer to use agave nectar)
Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the Hibiscus blossoms and steep covered for about 10 minutes or until cooled.

When cool, add the sugar or sweetner to taste, mix in the lime juice. Chill and pour over ice to serve.

When I visited the Caribbean before my son was born I had this wonderful granita for dessert. The view at the restaurant was spectacular and I remember how satisfying and refreshing this granita was without feeling too over indulgent. I asked the waiter if the chef would share the recipe and he was so kind. He came out and sat down at the table to visit with us for a while. I jotted the recipe down on a cocktail napkin.

Hibiscus Granita

1 1/2 Cups Dry Sparkling Wine
4 oz Hibiscus Tea
2" Section of Orange Peel, White Pith Removed
2" Section of Lemon Peel, White Pith Removed
1" Piece of Ginger Root, Sliced
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/3 Cup Simple Syrup
1/8 Cup Velvet Falernum
3 Tablespoons Lime Juice

Pour Sparkling wine in a small pot over medium heat. Place Hibiscus Tea, Orange, Lemon Peel, Ginger, Allspice and Cinnamon in a glass measuring cup or bowl.

When the wine starts to simmer (not boiling), remove from heat and pour over the tea and spices. Let it steep for about 5 minutes or until the liquid is deep red and fragrant.

Strain the tea and spices. Add the Simple Syrup, Velvet Falernum and Lime Juice.

Let the tea cool to room temperature. Pour into a shallow glass or metal pan, cover and place in the freezer. Let it freeze for an hour and when it begins to harden take a fork and fluff itup to make the granita. Return it to the freezer and freeze another hour and repeat the process.

To make the Simple Syrup: Combine 1/2 Cup Sugar and 1 Cup Water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and cool. Use to sweeten beverages.

This recipe calls for Velvet Falernum, a liqueur made in Barbados with rich flavors of almond, lime, vanilla, ginger and clove. It's an essential ingredient used in popular Caribbean cocktails such as the Mai Tai and Zombie. This liqueur is the important ingredient that lends a hand int he slushy consistency and unique flavor combination in the granita.