May 2, 2011
Roasted Ruby Fruits
Have you ever eaten a Rosella?
Not the parrot, the fruit. Also known as Native Hibiscus it's a leggy shrub that grows about 7ft high with small unassuming flowers that grow from a red fleshy calyx that is used as a wonderful fruit.
Like a lot of our native fruits the Rosella is under utilised despite it's deliciousness, and is hard to find mainstream, although I did see a small pile of them for sale at one of the large supermarkets last year and snatched them up quickly! In places where they grow readily you can always find jars of homemade Rosella jam at the CWA or markets as the people here know how fantastic they are.
My dad grows Rosellas on his farm on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, and they are quite labour intensive having to be harvested each day as they ripen and get larger, going between the rows stretching and bending and twisting each little fruit off to avoid damaging the plant. It's actually really peaceful with the noise of the birds calling and various bush insects humming and the tiniest emerald green tree frogs staring out at you between the leaves - but don't tell him I said that or he'll get me to help more often!
The worst part is separating the fruit petals from the green seed core at the bottom of the fruit. The green core is covered in tiny little hair things that prickle and itch and drive you up the wall with scratching. These have to be removed without damaging the fruit around it, so a little tool is pushed through the base of the fruit with a twisting motion and popped of the end. For my photos, I just ripped them apart artistically. The fruit is sold without the core which is the heaviest part of course, so a LOT of fruit is required to make much money. To help with costs, Dad is part of a co-op that on sells the fruit for a group of smaller farmers, to a tea making company and a bush food company.
I was already planning this post with my favourite fruit combination- Rhubarb and Strawberries, when we arrived for a visit and I saw the Rosellas. It seemed a bit silly to do a whole post on a little known and hard to find fruit, but then I realised that their wonderful sweet/tartness was the perfect match for my others. The raspberries were just a serendipitous find at a street stall at an incredible price that found their way into the mix. Rhubarb and strawberries will still taste nice, just not as perfect as this- you will just have to imagine the other flavours along with the birds song, cicadas and treefrog calls.
Roasted Ruby Fruits
A bunch of lovely red rhubarb- I know there are green varieties, but I think the red is prettier
A punnet or two of strawberries
A handful of raspberries
A cup of Rosella petals (or a good imagination)
a quarter cup of sugar
Couple of tablespoons of water
I wanted to roast the fruits to maintain the structural integrity of the rhubarb, it tends to go all stringy if it's stewed, but really you could pop them all in a saucepan if you didn't mind, or were feeling lazy.
Place your rhubarb stalks in the bottom of a roasting pan and sprinkle on the water and a bit of the sugar.
Roast at 150* for about 12 mins or until they are starting to soften up a bit and release some of their juice.
Artistically scatter over your Rosella petals with a bit more sugar
and bake for another 5 minutes.
Cover with the halved strawberries and raspberries and sprinkle on the rest of the sugar, then pop back in the oven for 5-10 mins or until the strawberries are softened and the fruits have released some of their vibrant ruby red juices.
Serve these jewels of loveliness with something rich and velvety like some custard or lightly whipped cream-lactose free of course, and a golden pile of gluten free shortbread crumbs to add a bit of textual contrast.
So Readers, have you ever tried a Rosella before?