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Long ago my brother-in-law Don wondered if I would be bringing ‘seaweed’ to a family pot-luck gathering!  I still smirk at the memory and often ponder if he would sample my latest culinary creations here in Ecuador!

Hibiscus remains my ‘herb’ of choice for freshly-brewed tea, and when combined with lemon, maracuya, starfruit or any acidic partner, the drink transforms into a shocking-red-but-healthy drink!

After years of brewing then straining hisbiscus tea from flowers plucked straight from the garden,  one day I poured the entire cooled batch – blossoms and all -into the blender and whirled the maroon mixture with chunks of papaya, banana, and fresh lemon juice.  WOW!  A bright-red orange explosion of color produced an extremely healthy and delicious afternoon drink!  The hibiscus not only added color and antioxidants and vitamins, but it also served as a thickener.

Sometimes I add the chopped flowers without cooking them, and the small flecks of red add a lot of interest as well as a topic for conversation!  (Think mojito + hibiscus for a crazy visual combination!) And yes,  my friends often raise a brow before sampling the latest creation!

Lately I’ve been brewing lemon grass, ginger and hibiscus, straight from the garden.  The lemon grass gives the tea a dark color, but the effect is refreshing, at least for me!   Add maracuya juice, and an explosion of flavor and aroma complements the drink.

Bumblebee y Maracuya Flower - copyright Lisa Brunetti -

The maracuya grows to Jack-in-the-Beanstalk heights and is easily reached from the second-story deck!  The beautiful blossoms make great photo moments with the river as a back drop while bumblebees and butterflies flit from flower to flower.

All was fine on this tranquil bend in the river, until along came disease (?) or was that insect damage?  — Losing a few did not affect my joy of harvesting those round yellow orbs that matured to perfection!

And then came the worms.

"Ok... Let's Baptize them with Lemon-Grass & Garlic Tea!"

(They LOVED the Tea!)

I tried several ‘home brews’ but decided to let nature take its course and see what happened.

“BT” would surely have taken care of the worms, though the test  proves that  going organic sounds like a great plan;  what happens when the worms wipe out a farmer’s crop in a week’s time?

Cevallos Farm's Maracuya "Patch"

I smile.  Running out of grazing material, the worms have now moved inside!  Others are pupating into chrysalis, and will soon be magically fluttering about as super butterflies!  The toxins from the maracuya plant will make them invincible to predators!

(At least the lemon grass and hibiscus are pest free!)

In time the foliage will regenerate; the flowers and fruit will follow, and the cycle  will surely repeat itself!