Roselle is a large, beautiful hibiscus relative that bears fleshy red calyxes that can be cooked or dried and made into sauces, jellies, desserts, tea, etc. It is also called the Florida Cranberry for it’s cranberry-like flavor. I have almost always grown roselle in my garden. It becomes a large, beautiful plant, over my head and enormously bushy. It grows all summer, without doing much and seeming to be of very little consequence, until fall when it suddenly starts to bloom and produce. And produce. And produce. Planting it is easy, it’s all the labor involved with the harvesting that takes so much time and effort.
This is also the time of year that fresh, leafy greens have always seemed scarce. I’ve been gradually trying to fill the gap by trying out a new late summer green every year. So far I have tried Malabar spinach, cassava leaves, and sweet potato greens, and liked all of them for their very different flavors and qualities. This year I met an Indian gentleman through a friend, who shared his own roselle-leaf curry recipe.
Roselle leaves are tart and tangy, and best harvested from the tops of the plant. The tough stems can be snipped away, and make sure you wash the leaves well! The first time I cooked them, dozens of little green caterpillars came wriggling up when I put the leaves on to cook. Submerging the leaves in a large pot or bowl of cold water reliably gets rid of any caterpillars.
Shrimp And Roselle Leaf Curry
1 medium-sized bowl full of roselle leaves (they cook way down like spinach does)
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
Several hot peppers
1/2 cup ghee
1 lb shrimp
1 Tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne (if this is too spicy for you, you can sub paprika. It adds the pepper flavor without the heat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
- Wash the leaves well (see above note about little green caterpillars). Remove stems from the bottoms of the leaves and set aside.
- Chop the onion, garlic and hot peppers (de-seeding the hot peppers makes them much less spicy. I cook for my children, who won’t eat anything spicy, so I am always thinking of these things), and get them frying in a few spoonfuls of the ghee.
- Meanwhile, mix together the spices and salt, and then mix them into the shrimp. When the onion is clear and starting to turn golden, add the shrimp/spice mixture and stir-fry until browned.
- Add the roselle leaves. The original recipe doesn’t say to chop them or anything, but some of my roselle leaves were too large to make a graceful forkful, so I cut them in half.
- As the mixture cooks down, stir occasionally until the water is cooked down, about 20 minutes. At the end of cooking, add the remaining ghee and more salt if necessary. Serve over hot rice.
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