When I was a kid growing up in India roselle grew wild like weeds in the garden. We used to make jam from the bright red calyces.
Roselle is a variety of hibiscus (different from ornamental hibiscus), and although it is sometimes referred to as “hibiscus flower” the part to which I am referring is not a flower at all but the sepals forming the calyx which encases the seed pod after the flower has dropped off. The dried calyces, known as “flor de Jamaica,” make a delicious tea or refreshing cold beverage. The leaves of the plant, known as gongura in South India, are also edible and are used in curries and pickles.
I have grown roselle a few times here in the MidAtlantic region but the plants never produced flowers. I assumed that the growing season was too short. This year I made another attempt, and this time they have produced a few flowers and the subsequent calyces. There are only a few scrawny plants so there isn’t enough roselle to make jam, but I thought they might cook up well with apples.
Roselle, like cranberry or rhubarb, is very tart and needs a bit of sweetener. I peeled the calyces from a handful of seedpods and cooked them in a small pot with some turbinado sugar.
To the simmering roselle I added a Honey Crisp and a Granny Smith apple. As a spur of the moment impulse I also added a couple of red Serrano chiles.
I decided to use the apples, Serrano and roselle to make a cobbler. The topping was made by mixing coconut oil, an egg, pinch of salt, vanilla extract and a little turbinado sugar with self rising flour.
The cobbler exceeded my expectations in every way. The best part was the perfect amount of heat from the Serrano chiles.