Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The plant is cultivated commercially in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Various parts of the plant have commercial value - the woody stems yield bast fiber, which is used to produce burlap. The calyx of the flower is exported to Europe and North America where it produces a natural food coloring, and the dried calyces are used to make infused teas called "Hibiscus Tea" or in Spanish "agua de Jamaica". Anyone who has drunk Red Zinger tea has already sampled Hibiscus Sabdariffa, and it's this plant which gives the tea its brilliant red color. In many countries where this plant is cultivated, its leaves provide the most common culinary use, and among these countries is Brazil.
Once you have tasted vinagreira leaves, you'll understand where the Portuguese name comes from, as the high Vitamin C content of the leaves gives them a very acidic taste. Other regional names for the plant in Maranhão include caruru azedo, which means "acidic caruru."
Future posts on Flavors of Brazil will be featuring the foods of Maranhão, and will include a number of recipes which include vinagreira.
here for a link to the ordering page for this plant.According to the site, it can be grown successfully in USDA zones 6-11.