First of all. It’s not pronounced like this…
Its closer to huh – my – ca (the last bit sounds like cup without the p).
We are talking about a species of hibiscus whose calyxes are used culinarily and medicinally.
The images below are from my garden.
The plant/flower is also regularly misidentified (which is kind of a gripe of mine)
See Flor de Jamaica : A Confusion of Hibisci* for more info
The leaves are also edible
Check my Post Flor de Jamaica (Hibiscus sabdariffa) for some recipes
This however is the important part of the plant (in this Post anyway). Not the actual flower but the calyx.
It is highly nutritious and quite medicinal, see Flor de Jamaica : The C-Bomb
What we want it for is this
A delicious and refreshing drink. I like it a little sweeter whilst mis amigos Chilangos like it a little more on the sour side. It is very easy to make (in essence it is a cold and sweet herbal tea). Recipe : Agua de Jamaica
Or you could grow and process it yourself.
I have grown this plant in my own garden. Never with any great measure of success though. The images above show the amount harvested from one small plant, enough perhaps for a single dish, certainly not enough to make any real quantity of agua de jamaica. There was also more wastage when I procced the flowers. The hard seed pod in the centre of the flower was difficult to remove. I just cut the bottom off the bud and peeled off the calyx. Fiddly, time consuming and wasteful.
Then Viajando Con Esteban showed me the way (1).
Esteban is from Sincelejo in Colombia (1) and has posted a very informative video (2) on the cultivation and harvesting of flor de jamaica.
- Sincelejo is the capital and largest city of the Colombian department of Sucre.
- Cultivo de Flor de Jamaica
The first thing I noticed was that these plants are waaaaay larger than any I have grown.
In the background you can see the crop ready for harvest. In the foreground you can see the drying sheds.
The next thing I noticed was this natty little tool used to remove the seed capsule from the plant.
The tool is placed at the base of the bud and twisted like a screwdriver. This punches a neat whole in the bottom of the bud and pushes out the seed capsule. The seed capsule is very hard.
The process is so simple that even a small child can capably perform it.
Place the tool in the right spot……
…..and push. Voilà, job done. (only 250kg more to go)
These are the results
A large container of seed pods ready for drying and then replanting next season.
And a large container of processed flor de jamaica (note the neat hole created by the tool). The original video goes into some detail on how to make your own harvesting tool.
Now they are set aside to dry on racks
Colour variations in dried flor de jamaica
Frutiva CDMX-Edo Mexico on Facebook demonstrates some of the varieties available.
Now, back to my griping.
The jamaica from Amazing Chiles and Spices (image on far right above) demonstrates a regular issue with this plant that peeves me somewhat. The hibiscus flower being used as an example is completely incorrect. It is an entirely different plant. It is more photogenic than the calyxes of flor de jamaica and I suppose that is why it is used. The actual flowers of jamaica are quite beautiful but also quite delicate and ephemeral. They do not stay on the plant long (a day or 2 maybe) and they are not the part of the plant that is used.
In this case….there are no major issues if you use one plant in place of another. You will not be able to create the agua de jamaica if you use the rosa-sinensis but you will not run the risk of poisoning/toxicity/adverse reactions if you use either plant. THIS CAN NOT BE SAID OF ALL HERBAL MISIDENTIFICATIONS. In some cases (not altogether uncommon) you can run the very real risk of poisoning and death if you get it wrong. This is only a minor example but it lies at the heart of the problem. If you are not 100% sure of the identification of a plant then DO NOT USE IT. 100% certainty is the equivalent of knowing the difference between milk and orange juice when you visit your refrigerador.
This error of identification is made even in México (which for some reason I was a little shocked by).
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