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Olé Rico Dried Hibiscus $15.99

The first image of hibiscus that comes to mind may be of a flower blooming on a tropical island, but it’s also a popular ingredient in many cuisines.

​The hibiscus used for cooking is the calyxes—the part of the plant that protects the bud and supports the bloom—and the vibrant, ruby-hued hibiscus is a staple in pantries across Jamaica, Mexico and parts of Africa and the Caribbean. And while it often appears in beverages like teas or agua fresca de Jamaica, hibiscus’ bold flavor also is at home in tacos and soups once you steep the dried blooms in broth, developing a chewy, nearly meaty quality.

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HOW TO USE

Of course, these plants are popular enjoyed as a vibrant tea that can be drank as is or doctored up with aromatics and sweeteners, but we also think they make a fresh, complex cocktail: Steep the hibiscus in water to make a simple tea, then add agave, a squeeze of lime, tequila and cointreau for a refreshing margarita. Use as a meat substitute in tacos (trust us, it’s fantastic) or toss into a green salad with candied nuts and tangy cheeses. And when blended into a fine powder, hibiscus turns into a lovely sauce for fish once combined with fresh citrus juice and spices, or also plays well in a simple syrup to glaze cookies, soak cakes and drizzle into a tropical-inspired baklava.

Hibiscus Tea (Aqua de Jamaica/Bissap)
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine 4 cups water, 2 cups Olé Rico Mexican Hibiscus, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger and 10 lightly crushed whole allspice berries. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the hibiscus plumps slightly. Remove from the heat, let steep for 20 minutes, then strain into a pitcher or tall jar, pressing on the hibiscus to extract as much liquid as possible; discard the hibiscus. Stir in ½ cup white sugar until dissolved, then add an additional 4 cups cold water. The mixture will keep refrigerated for about 1 week. To serve, pour over ice and garnish with lime wedges.

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