Above top: Roselle, Bottom: Burgundy Okra.

I want to share with you a couple of plants that were new discoveries for me this season. They were also the most talked about things on the Ranch at our open house events this summer! Both in the hibiscus family, they display beautiful foliage and mallow-like flowers. Roselle has various uses - fiber can be extracted from the stem as a substitute for jute, in some cultures the spinach-like leaves are eaten (although I haven't tried this!), it has a list of medicinal properties as long as your arm and the calyces are used as food colouring. It also makes a delicious, brilliant red tea popular in the tropics. This was so easy to make - I harvested about 20 calyces - they should be easy to snap off the plant, otherwise they are not ready. Remove the stem and then peel the outer skin away from the seed inside discarding the seed, boil the skins in a pint of water for about 3 minutes, allow them to steep for a few minutes, strain out the calyces, and you're left with the most vibrant red coloured liquid I have ever seen! I've never come across a natural colour so bright! I then added sugar to taste (I needed a fair bit to sweeten and bring out the flavour), and poured over ice filled glasses. It made a wonderfully refreshing and fragrant summer drink (about 2 full glasses). This plant is native to the old world tropics so I'm not sure how it would fare in the UK, but I am keen to try it in a greenhouse or polytunnel.
Burgundy Okra is equally attractive, producing prolific slender pods with great flavour. It was hard to keep on top of the harvesting as they were coming thick and fast. You don't want to let the pods get too big or they are tough and stringy. I hadn't come across okra until I came to California, and some folk I've talked to aren't too keen as it can be rather gelatinous! I like to cut the pods in half length ways and fry them in breadcrumbs, herbs and spices (dipped in egg first) and lets face it, everything tastes good fried like this!
Both plants are easy to propagate from seed, and seed is easy to save for the following in season.

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