I am back! I have a week off of school for Thanksgiving break and I am excited to get back to blogging! I have had this post in the works for several weeks. So, even though our hibiscus plants are dead as a doornail right now after a few hard freezes, I still want to show you how we harvested it for tea.
Imagine this is 3 weeks ago and the hibiscus plants are blooming and setting seeds. The flowers of this plant are truly beautiful and we were lucky enough to have 5 thriving plants in our Medicinal Herb Garden at the UGArden. You might be surprised to hear this, but we don’t harvest the flowers for tea, we harvest the roselle (the calyx or fleshy part surrounding the developing seed pod after it has flowered).
So, early one morning with a big work group of student volunteers, and the threat of impending frost, we set to work harvesting all the roselle that we could. We started working at soon as it got light outside around 7:30am.
The process began with cutting off the seed pods from the branches and collecting them in buckets.
The amazing thing about the UGArden is all the work is done by student volunteers. Since I am an intern working for class credit and helping to manage the medicinal herb garden, I have the privilege of hosting a work group every week to direct the volunteering students in whatever needs to get done that day. It is one of my favorite things about the internship. I enjoy hearing about everyone’s major, what they are interested in, and why they decided to come out and volunteer. In this group of students we have many different majors including international affairs, landscape architecture, financial management, exercise physiology, dietetics, and english. I really love the diversity and how gardening and growing food and medicine can bring all these different people together.
I think they are having a good time too!
Once we collected all the seed pods they were combined and taken to the table for processing.
Now came the hard part. We had to remove the fleshy covering from each seed pod by hand.
If you are purchasing hibiscus and you feel like it is an expensive herb, remember all the work that goes into each little piece of herb. It is a labor intensive herb to harvest.
Good thing we had each other for company and the work got done in no time. The seed pods were saved and taken home by the manager of the medicinal herb garden to feed her chickens.
You really can’t beat the experience of processing herbs for medicine, while enjoying the company of student volunteers against the backdrop of a sunrise. It is an incredible experience every time!
At least while the weather was still nice a few weeks ago.
Now with temps in the 30s we are bundled up and staying inside the heated dry room at 6:45 in the morning :).
Finally we were done and everyone’s hands had the pink stains to prove it. One guy had a job interview later that day. Hopefully they didn’t ask him why his hands were stained pink.
Then we took all the hibiscus back to the dry room for drying on screens.
We had to break out the big screens to hold all of the hibiscus roselle that we harvested.
Here is a picture of our dry room holding all the last minute herbs we harvested before the frost came in. We have culinary herbs like sage, rosemary and oregano, we have the last of the holy basil, some stinging nettle and lemon balm and of course our big screens of hibiscus roselle. I seriously have the best intern job ever!
Depending on a lot of factors like time of year, moisture content in the air, and temperature, it takes about 2-3 weeks to fully dry the roselle. Then it is ready to be packed up into jars for storage and put into infusers to make hibiscus tea.
I really enjoyed it plain, and have also enjoyed mixing it with other herbs like mint, lemongrass, and nettle for different flavor teas. It tastes great and is high in nutrition, especially Vit C!