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If you live in Florida or other sub-tropical climate, you may have a hibiscus bush; if you don't, you should.   They produce spectacular large blooms, some double, some single, each beautiful in their own way.  They range from yellow to salmon, to fiery red, pink, white with red throats, and even ivory that tinges with pink as the day goes on.  The only downside is that the flowers bloom for a single day, closing forever as the sun sinks.  You can prolong their life if you have an evening event by picking them early and putting them gently in the refrigerator;  take them out for centerpieces or place decorations a little before the party starts and they will last several hours extra.

Many people don't realize they make a healthful tasty drink too, hot or cold.  If you believe everything you read, the juice or infusion (tea) is almost a cure-all, improving high blood pressure, inflammation and high cholesterol,  arthritis and diabetes, helping prevent cancer, liver disease, nerve disease, assisting with weight loss...  Naturally none of these have been scientifically proven but there must be some  truth in it's healthful properties!  Red is the color most often utilized, but they are all usable.  Pick when fully bloomed, or immediately after closing; they can be stored in the refrigerator overnight for a breakfast drink.

Hibiscus Tea

2 cups water
1 Tbsp. dried hibiscus, or 1 double or two small or single hibiscus flowers
1 small or 1/2 lg.cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp honey
Juice of 1 orange or of 1/2 lemon or lime

Remove flowers (if using fresh) from the calyx (the green part) and chop the flower coarsely.  If you don't have fresh or dried, use one hibiscus teabag.  Place hibiscus and cinnamon stick in a glass or ceramic pitcher or bowl.  Heat water to boiling and pour over the hibiscus.  Steep for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, juice the orange or 1/2 lemon or lime.  Strain the hibiscus brew into a 3 cup+ container.  Add honey, stir, and add citrus juice.  Taste; if too tart add a little more honey, or if too sweet, more lemon juice.  Serve hot or cold, even over ice cubes.

Red hibiscus are reputed to be the healthiest.
Obviously fresh flowers are better than dried.
Use Ceylon cinnamon, the fuzzy crushed-looking sticks instead of thick smooth ones if possible.
Unpasturaized natural honey is reported to have health benefits over pasteurized or heat-treated.
Fresh citrus juice is preferable to juice in a carton, bottle or frozen, but use that if needed.
NEVER give honey to babies!

The Sneaky Kitchen
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