Cooking Up An Old Florida Thanksgiving

Red Roselle Hibiscus — the Florida “cranberry”

Cranberries may not grow in Florida, but the state’s old-timers had a workable alternative to the tart fall staples.

Red Roselle hibiscus, also known as cranberry hibiscus, Florida cranberry, red sorrel or Jamaica sorrel, is ready for harvest once the fall weather hits. After the plant’s flowers drop off, you’ll see the calyx, which closes over the seed pod. Those calyces can then be harvested to make jams and jellies or tea.

Cranberry Hibiscus

It’s considered a good substitute for cranberries because of its color and tart taste.

Roselle hibiscus is native to west or central Africa, but most Florida Cracker homesteads grew the plant back in the day.

The calyces can be steeped in hot water for tea, or used chopped in place of cranberries for a Florida “cranberry” sauce. You can also use them to make jelly.

Seminole Pumpkins

One of the few vegetables — though technically, it’s a fruit — that can survive the heat of a Florida summer, these pumpkins have been around for a long time. The Seminole Indians cultivated them, and even named a southwest region of Florida “Chassahowitza,” or “pumpkin hanging place.” 

Their sweet, orange flesh is a great substitute for butternut or pumpkin squash. The yellow flowers of the Seminole pumpkin are edible, and you can also eat the young, green fruit without peeling them.

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