Hibiscus Flower TACOS / TACOS de Flor de Jamaica

Hibiscus flowers are commonly used in Mexico to make a cold, sweetened beverage or to brew a relaxing tea that can also be used to treat hipertension (high blood pressure). The flowers are usually discarded after brewing, but they can be used as a meat substitute in a number of dishes. I have also discovered in the process that I can get a lot more beverage from a batch of flowers than I thought. The chewy texture resembles that of shredded beef or pork, and they absorb the flavors of garlic and onion when sauteed. If you don’t live in Mexico, you may be able to find hibiscus in a supermarket or Mexican grocery, or you can order it on Amazon. These tacos got a hearty thumbs-up even from the non-vegans at my house in Cancún.

PRIOR TO MAKING THE TACOS Cover 1 c HIBISCUS FLOWERS with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and keep the liquid to make tea or beverage. Repeat with the same flowers 2 more times, until the liquid is very light in color. Drain the flowers well and set them aside.

PREP TIME 20 min / COOK TIME 10-15 min, med heat / NEED skillet / MAKES 8-10 tacos

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c hibiscus flowers, boiled and drained
  • 1/2 c onion, finely chopped, for sauteeing
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil for sauteeing
  • salt to taste
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 c lettuce, finely chopped
  • 1 c onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • salsa, to taste (about 2 Tbsp for each taco)
  1. Sautée 1/2 c FINELY CHOPPED ONION and 2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, PEELED AND CHOPPED in 1 Tbsp OLIVE OIL until onions are soft and transparent.
  2. Add 1 c WELL-DRAINED HIBISCUS FLOWERS and SALT to taste.
  3. Cook thoroughly over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, turning with spatula.
  4. Place hibiscus mixture on a fresh hot corn tortilla, add lettuce, chopped onion, CILANTRO and salsa.
  5. Recommended side dishes are refried beans, Mexican Rice, avocado slices, and cold agua de jamaica. ¡Buen provecho!

Beyond Burritos and Margaritas: Mexican Food You May Not Have Met Yet

Tortillas, beans, rice, and chiles are staples in Mexican households and Mexican restaurants all over the world, but in Mexico people enjoy many other foods you may not have heard about. Here are a few of them.

Pitaya

A deliciously sour-sweet watery and nutritious cactus fruit.

Guanabana

Smells like pineapple, tastes like strawberries and apple with a touch of citrus, with a creamy texture, like coconut or banana, and generous amounts of Vitamins B and C.

Huitlacoche

A delicious and nutritious edible “disease,” huitlacoche, the fungus known in English as corn smut, can bring a higher price than the corn on which it grows. Raw or roasted, it makes delicious tacos, quesadallas, enhiladas, and other delicacies.

Flor de Calabaza

This beautiful flower can be cooked or eaten raw, made into poppers, or used as an ingredient in vegetarian pozole.

Nopal y Tuna

It may look like something to avoid touching, but this is a desert feast. The tunas (cactus pears) taste as sweet as jam when they are ripe, and they can be found in an explosion of different bright colors. The leaves, known as nopales in the mercado, are a rich source of protein an fiber. They can be scraped, chopped, seasoned, sauteed, and enjoyed in a variety of dishes.


(Original version published by M. Lesh in Coffee Talk, September 1, 2019)