At first glance you might not know what the hell you’re looking at. Some kind of barbecued baby cuttlefish, perhaps? Some weird Taiwanese gummy candy that was dropped on a dusty floor? Maybe some kind of alien spore that is only the first wave of an silent invasion that occupies our bodies and replaces our souls with some sort of implacable hive-mind drone entities? Or perhaps it’s jellyfish jerky with a lovely char sui glaze?
Well, if you guessed any of those you’re totally wrong, and you already know this if you actually read the headline of this post. Flowers, yes! Candied and dried hibiscus flowers, indeed!
At the Culver City Farmer’s Market on Tuesday afternoon I picked up (in addition to tomatoes and enough peaches to make me stagger a bit under the weight) a few bags of snacks — little rice crackers, lightly salted roasted cashews, and these really fantastic dried, candied hibiscus flowers. If you’ve ever had jamaica (pronounced ha-my-ka) agua fresco, that fantastic hibiscus cooler common to Mexico, you’ll know right off the bat what this will taste like. The drink tastes a bit like very sweet but still quite tart cranberry juice, with an un-surprisingly floral note. I absolutely love the stuff poured over lots of ice, as a fresh summer drink that drive away the heat. A shot or two of good vodka in the drink makes for a fantastic variant on a Cape Cod cocktail, btw.
The dried flowers have a chewy and slightly crumbly texture, much like dried mango, but the flavor is all hibiscus. That is, it tastes very similar to dried sweetened cranberries. A very interesting and delightful snack, for sure. My eight-year-old son popped them in his mouth without hesitation and polished off the bag, greedy little bugger.
I was so intrigued by these that I’ve given some thought to drying some myself. I’m sure I can do it without suflur dioxide, although I’m frankly not really concerned about using it in tiny quantities. Stay tuned, lovely people, perhaps I’ll have another post about homemade candied hibiscus soon.