End of Summer - Roselle and Malabar Spinach

Roselle zen sm

It's supposed to dip down into the 30s tomorrow night, with a possibility of frost that will put an end to a couple of summer survivors: roselle and Malabar spinach.

We harvested a basketful of roselle last weekend and dried it in a borrowed dehydrator. Roselle - also called Jamaica sorrel is a relative of hibiscus, okra, cotton, and responsible for the red zing in "Red Zinger" tea. A basketful created a jar of dried calyxes for making a beautiful vitamin-C-ful tea during winter with some hopefully left over for authentic Jamaica for the Christmas season (the one with rum). 

Roselle sepals sm
A friend brought by bags full of Malabar Spinach - a heat-hardy climbing vine that is not related to spinach at all. It has many of the same nutrients though and is a good source of calcium and iron as well as Vitamins A and C. And IT GROWS IN THE SUMMER in north Florida, which makes me want to love it in spite of its slightly mucilaginous quality. In fact, I really do like it more each time I try it.

And, let me repeat: IT GROWS IN THE SUMMER. 

Malabar spinach
We served it at the cafe this week in quiche, and folks really liked it. We also added it to some newly-harvested lettuce in salad.  I blanched and froze three gallons of it, which will be greening up soups and casseroles for months to come. 

Goodbye summer! 

{malibar spinach photo found here - with more info about this glorious summer vegetable}

Zona's Zinnias

May zinnia
My grandmother Zona introduced me to zinnias, and maybe that's why they have always had such a southern, homey sensibility about them to me. They're natives of Mexico but do so well here, especially in the less humid month of May. I love the different shapes and colors of their papery-dry flowers, and their long stems which make them perfect for cutting. They last a long time in a vase, and have been a part of my summer home-decorating since my "Nanny" gave me the first bouquet.

Later in summer they will grow bushy and their leaves will speckle with various viruses, but their flowers will soldier on till the bitter end. In the right conditions, zinnias will self-seed. I will never forget the school garden we left planted with still-thriving colorful zinnias in June, and which surprised us the following September with a new crop of all white ones. Apparently hybrids, the second generation did not keep the characteristic of the parent - but still so beautiful! 

Now I try to keep them germinating throughout the summer, ready to fill in spaces in the garden. Right now there's a row of beautiful all purple ones swaying in front of the tomatoes in the front yard, muti-colored ones circling the trees in the parking lot, and a little row behind the corn. They're cheery and colorful and will always remind me of my funny (and colorful) grandmother Zona Lee.