Friday, July 30, 2010

Home Grown Greens/Herbs - Gongura (Hibiscus subdariffa)

Gongura plant
Gongura, Roselle, or Hibiscus subdariffa is another wonderful herb/leafy green to grow at home. The leaves have a tart lemony taste similar to sorrel and are used in dals and chutneys especially in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh - famous for Gongura Chutney. The dried calyxes or sepals are perhaps better known as Jamaican Sorrel, Flor De Jamaica or Mexican Hibiscus tea and are used to make delicious beverages in Jamaica, Central America, Mexico, Egypt and many African countries - more about that another day, another post.

In addition to being so useful, it is also a lovely plant. The the red stems and buds, strikingly beautiful divided leaves with red veins and stems (petioles), and the pale yellow flowers touched with a faint blush are quite distinctive and ornamental.

I grew mine from the stems from a bunch purchased at a grocery store. I was actuually trying to keep them fresh in a jar of water and lo and behold! they had rooted very quickly. They can be grown from seeds as well as stem cuttings. The plants thrive in warm weather but do not tolerate cold very well. So the plants or cuttings should be moved indoors before cold weather sets in.

Use gongura as you would sorrel in your favorite recipes; it lends its unique tangy citrus-y taste to them. Here are a few suggestions to try: Thogayal, Mung Bean StewSai Bhaji, Lemony Dal, and Mor Kootu.

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