The garden hibiscus needs little introduction for it is found in practically every garden and is frequently grown as hedges along the roadsides. There appears to be no authoritative date of the introduction of this flowering shrub to Bermuda, but mention is made of the plant in 1832 so obviously it must have been introduced some time before that date. An interesting feature of the hibiscus is that the flowers only remain open for one day. This factor is not always apparent because new buds open daily, and the impression is that of flowers lasting for a very much longer period.
Hibiscus tea is made using the petals of the flower and can be enjoyed either hot or cold. It’s rich in antioxidants and can help lower blood pressure but should be avoided during pregnancy because it can affect estrogen levels.
Homemade Hibiscus Tea
2 cups hibiscus petals (any colour will do)
8 cups water
1/4 cup honey
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
Place the hibiscus petals in a pot with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, switch off the heat and cover the pot. Let petals steep for 20 minutes before stirring in the honey and lime juice until completely combined.
Strain the tea and either serve hot or chill in the refrigerator before enjoying.
Wild fennel is a common find in many parts of the island. Native to the Mediterranean, fennel loves to grow near the ocean and adapts well to Bermuda’s salty air. When harvesting, it’s important to pull the entire plant out of the ground, that way you can use its bulb for cooking. If you’re new to cooking fennel, try this recipe for roasted fennel with Parmesan.
Roasted Fennel with Parmesan
4 tbsp olive oil
4 fennel bulbs, cut horizontally into 1/3-inch-thick slices, fronds reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly oil the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange the fennel in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then with the Parmesan.
Drizzle with the oil. Bake until the fennel is fork-tender, and the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Chop enough fennel fronds to equal 2 teaspoons; sprinkle over the roasted fennel and serve.
Nasturtiums can be found growing wild across Bermuda. They grow low to the ground and are particularly easy to cultivate as after a single planting, the flowers will return year after year. Additionally, they do not require good quality soil or extensive care to thrive. The flowers and leaves should simply be rinsed before being mixed into a salad or cooked dish or added as a lovely garnish to the plate being served. Be sure to pick the flowers and leaves as close to the time of use as possible as they wilt quickly. The nasturtium’s peppery flavour blends perfectly with that of chives, creating a combination that is excellent for use in dishes such as omelettes or potato salad.
4 cups nasturtium (packed, leaves)
2 cups nasturtium (packed, flowers)
1 1/2 cups olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Pick leaves and flowers. If your plants aren’t blooming yet, use only the leaves. Wash and dry leaves and flowers. Add all the ingredients to a blender or a food processor. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Ladle the pesto into small jars and refrigerate.
PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS
The prickly pear is Bermuda’s only native cactus. It has large spikes and purple fruit that is covered in fine prickles,so make sure to wear gloves and use tongs when harvesting and preparing.
How to Prepare the Fruit
Wash the fruit before cutting off the top and bottom and cutting slits into the fruit lengthwise. Peel off the outer and inner skin and check to make sure all prickles have been removed before serving.
Prickly Pear Ruby Sauce
Serve on top of ice cream
1 cup mashed prepared fruit (probably 3 fruits)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. almond extract
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. butter
Combine pears with next three ingredients in a saucepan. Heat for five minutes until thickened. Stir in rest of ingredients.
The pawpaw or papaya is a native of South America and somewhat resembles a melon and is often eaten in the same way. Pawpaws vary in size and shape, from spherical to long and pointed; they are orange-coloured when ripe, with edible flesh of the same colour and large numbers of small black seeds surrounded by a gelatinous substance. Pawpaws are not just delicious, they’re nutritious too: they are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids; the B vitamins folate and pantothenic acid; minerals potassium and magnesium; and fibre. Together, these nutrients promote the health of the cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer. In addition, pawpaws contain the digestive enzyme papain, which is used to treat sports injuries, other causes of trauma and allergies.
LOCUST AND WILD HONEY
Known by a variety of names—including monstera deliciosa, tornelia and hurricane plant, locust and wild honey is a native of the tropical regions of South America and is easily recognised by its large, perforated leaves and large green fruits. The skin of the fruit is thick and composed of hexagonal plates in a geometric pattern. While this fruit takes three or four months to ripen, it’s worth the wait. Described as a combination of pineapple, banana and strawberry, the fruit can only be enjoyed when the hexagonal plates begin to fall off leaving the pale-yellow flesh of the fruit exposed. Attempting to eat the fruit before it is fully ripe will result in an unpleasant sensation much like chewing small particles of glass. If you’re waiting patiently for your locust and wild honey to ripen, it’s best to place it in a paper bag and store it in the fridge or on the kitchen counter.