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Monday, 18 February 2013

Hibiscus Tea ( My own recipe )



My garden is devoid of any red hibiscus plants, so be forewarned that I am left only with  the option of using the beautiful pink and dark pink varieties of hibiscus flowers for my Hibiscus tea. Yep, you guessed right! I use fresh hibiscus flowers in my tea. 

In fact, my tea could also be called as a hibiscus ginger tea or hibiscus lemon grass tea, or even hibiscus herbal tea. As you might already know, all the ingredients that I mentioned so far are beneficial to human health. You just have to “Google” the specific benefits! 

I am a huge supporter of natural healing and wellness.  It is by habit, that I keep exploring and researching about many different plants. Lately, I am enlightened by the knowledge (although I was initially baffled by the discovery) that, I live “surrounded” by plants that are healthful or medicinal in nature! 

I also learned that many Ayurvedic Medicines are prepared with many of the everyday plants that are found in India. Naturally, I decided to use some of these plants to my advantage. And so, with a little experimentation, my evening herbal tea was born!

Preparation Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1)  Hibiscus flowers – about 4 to 5
2) Dried Lemon Grass – 1 ½ table spoon (If fresh, use 2 thick base stems that are 3 inches long)
3) Ginger (Skin removed) – 1 inch cube approximately, cut into thin slices (do not julienne)  
4)  Fresh Mint – 2 or 3 sprigs (*1)
5)  Water – 1 ½ cups or less (10-12 oz.)
6) Honey – 3 table spoons or less, depending on the sweetness preferred

Method:

Pour the water in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. 


It is OK to just combine everything together and then boil as well..

Add all of the above ingredients, except honey.


I use 3/4 cup of Indian Basil since the flavor is not so intense as the Thai variety!
Let it boil for 5-8 minutes in medium heat, or until the flowers turn pale in color (*2).

Take the tea off the stove, let stand for about 3 minutes. 

Different kinds of tea strainers. The one on the left is ideal for straining traditional Indian tea

Pour the tea through a tea strainer into a cup.



A warm cup of Hibiscus Tea

Now, add the honey and stir well. If you prefer a tea that is sweeter, try adding a half teaspoonful of natural sugar.
Look at the beautiful color!
Your splendid and extremely healthy herbal tea is ready!


I love the slight tartness the hibiscus flowers and the lemon grass add to the tea, and the beautiful maroon color that eventually translates into the tea. 

The hibiscus plant is greatly used in Ayurveda and its flowers are believed to have the beneficial properties for lowering cholesterol levels in the body. 

I remember from my childhood, my mother  would make us scrub the hibiscus leaves and some stems on a rock to create a concoction to be used as shampoo for our hair. This was an organic shampoo for our hair care needs. We were a family who had thick black hair, my mother was known as “the girl with hair” when she was growing up, as her hair when let loose, would almost reach her calves. In fact it still does reach up to her knees!!!

Lemongrass is known for its ability to relax the mind and it is supposed to be very good for digestion. 

In recent times, the goodness of ginger root has also been universally accepted!


(*1) I have Thai basil and Indian Basil in my garden which I sometimes add (about 6 to 7 leaves Thai Basil or 4-5 sprigs of Indian Basil); but, if you are someone who gets overwhelmed with too many flavors, it is better not to use it.
(*2) You could experiment with the quantity of water and the time taken for the flowers to completely run out of color since the amount of heat varies with respect to the make/technology of your stove. In the end, you should be left with about 8oz of tea after all the evaporation and draining out through the tea strainer is done.


I hope you enjoy your hibiscus tea! 


And since I will be curious about your thoughts, please send me your comments/feedback as well!

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Pink Hibiscus Flower




 A few years ago, I found myself impressed with the large variety and multitude of colors that the hibiscus flowers presented themselves with. I decided to collect as many varieties as possible so my garden would be full of colors all year round.
Most common color and variety of Hibiscus Flower
 The default garden design provided by our landscaping company had the traditional red flower (Hibiscus rosa-sinesis) hibiscus plants all around the perimeter of my garden, which I slowly started replacing with other exotic varieties that I could find, during my numerous "city wandering" trips!   

I was very selective about the ones that I collected since I didn’t want to buy the usual varieties that most garden centers offered. 

I was successful in getting five of the hibiscus plants established; three of which had large white, orange and purple flowers; of the other two, one had light pink and the other, dark pink. 

Unfortunately, orange and purple could not adjust to the fencing that I got done and eventually died out.  
 
Beautiful white.. survivor!
Another Survivor .. Dark Pink Hibiscus.

 I trained my light pink hibiscus plant to grow tall without many branches; it looks like it is perennially extending up towards the blue sky.

Gorgeous Pink Flowers in the blue sky




From my kitchen window, I often see people in my neighborhood on their morning walk, stopping for a minute, to appreciate my pink hibiscus flowers hovering in the blue sky! 

The green background comes from a banana plant leaf!

The plant is at least 14 feet in height!


The Purple-rumped Male Sun bird
But what pleases me most is the sight of a sun bird fluttering its wings and trying to get nectar out of a pink hibiscus flower, which  also appears to be dancing to the movements of the bird!

It is a national geographic moment in front of me, except, standing in the kitchen, I can’t get this scene on my camera because of the grill on the kitchen window! Also, I don’t have enough open space to go for a good angle to shoot on that side of the garden.

This is the Girlfriend!
 
Sometimes, I find myself saying hello to a bird rarely seen by me perched on the kitchen window grill! 

Found my bug protein for the day!

I marvel at another dark blue bird that I sometimes spot in my garden. If there is enough sunlight, the plumage shows astounding colors, and the glowing metallic blue especially looks stunning!  

Come back for my favorite hibiscus tea recipe, which I plan to post soon!
 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Parakeets: Do they have feet or hands?



That is precisely what I was wondering when I saw the parakeet that was sitting on my neighbor’s flowering tree (Caesalpinia  pulcherrima) helping himself to the green beautiful seeds! Did I say “himself”? From the way its face is, with that domineering birsonality'', I strongly believe that it is a male! 
This one looks like it even has a moustache!


Thinking about which one below to pick!

It was amazing to watch how versatile the parakeet was, in using its feet and beak together in picking (or pecking at) the seedpods, opening it and taking out the shiny green seeds and bringing them to its mouth, while I was clicking away!

Success on the first focused attempt itself!


Hmm... I am sure there is a huge amount of balance and talent required for this activity!



The face of contentment!
A green parakeet was sitting on a (green) tree with red flowers pecking at the shiny green peas with his red beaks! What a beautiful sight! I thought it was worth sharing!

And btw, did you know that parakeets have eye lashes too? So, it’s not just the “lady” bugs that have eye lashes, Alright ?

I remember the time about 7 years back when my younger child was about 3 years of age, there was news about the West Nile Virus infection being spread through infected mosquitoes. My daughter reported that she was probably bitten by a mosquito that was sitting in the bathroom. So I asked her to describe the mosquito (maybe there was something about the species/look of the certain mosquito that was spreading the disease). She said it was a female mosquito. I asked her how she could figure out that it was a female. She said that the mosquito had eye lashes! 

How I wish I had kept track of all the funny things my children said while they were growing up! Having children and raising them makes me go through the growing up process one more time. I understand myself who I was and what type of kid I was, as a child! That helps me to do a better job as a mother since I know how I felt, as a child in a certain situation! 

This is especially true of my younger child! I feel so blessed that I am going through this awareness of who I was, as a child, since I always thought of myself as a difficult child!