Friday, May 08, 2009

Hawaii’s State Flower as Snack

A co-worker recently asked me if I tried dried hibiscus sold at Trader Joe’s. This isn’t some dried flower that you can put on your desk at work, but actual candied fruit (is a flower a fruit or vegetable?) like dried apricots or pineapples. She brought a packet into work one day and shared it among everyone (more like pushed it on everyone) so much so that I thought maybe she got kickbacks for every packet sold.

Still, I was a bit intrigued, mostly because I’m born and raised in Hawaii and grew up surrounded by the hibiscus flower. It’s so identified with the state that it’s the official state flower.

In the last year, I’ve seen several food products made with hibiscus, mostly beverages like sparkling juices and tea. There’s a growing connection between the hibiscus flower and health benefits such as lowering cholesterol. As for the dried hibiscus at Trader Joe’s, I still can’t understand how they get this …

… to look like this?

The dried hibiscus looked almost like some sea creature instead of the beautiful flower that it is. Plus, I wondered what they did with the stamen in the center?

The packet sells for only $1.99 (for 4.4 ounces) and I have to say it’s the kind of snack that grows on you. Initially, I thought it just tasted like any dried fruit with just the flavor of sugar detectable (there was no floral fragrance, but then again the hibiscus is not the most fragrant of flowers). Then I noticed that I enjoyed it more and more as I ate one after the other. Then I passed that line from enjoying it to realizing I just gave myself a stomach ache from eating all that sugar.

Plus, I still couldn’t get past the feeling — because of the flower’s shape — that I was eating baby octopus or something with tentacles.

While I guess it’s exotic to eat something as different as a flower, I’m still not sure I’m a fan of this floral treat. Bring on the cupcake!

7 comments:

SteamyKitchen said...

lol! it does look like a sea creature!!

Kim said...

Who thinks up these things?

Christina Mitchell said...

i love that you're not sure if you're a fan...even though you gave yourself a stomach ache. :o) maybe i'll pick up a bag next time i'm at tj's. i'm intrigued...

Carolyn Jung said...

I've only had hibiscus in beverages, too. I wonder what one could do with this dried hibiscus? Bake with it? Hmmm....

Passionate Eater said...

I think they need to make hibiscus cupcakes, just for you Ben!

C.G. the Foodie said...

I echo the need for hibiscus cupcakes. Yum!

Donna L. said...

This is roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa). My grandpa used to grow it in his backyard in Kahului and made wonderful jam and jelly from it.