Harvesting Hibiscus Calyces

Harvesting Hibiscus Calyces African roselle is grown by small farmers using traditional methods that depend on rainfall and natural soil fertility. Selling the dried calyces is an important source of cash income for these farmers and their rural communities. After flower pollination, the calyces enlarge to surround developing seed pods, becoming plump crowns of ruby red sepals that are often informally referred to as “fruit.” Harvesting takes place in more of the same old-world style. Women in the fields pick the calyces one by one, each at appropriate ripeness. Where calyx maturity is more uniform, whole stems are cut at the right time and carried by donkey to village women who, again, hand-pick every calyx. The hard seed pod in each is then manually removed with a coring tool, and the remaining edible sepal casings are spread across mats on the ground, left to dry naturally in the sun. Through this labor-intensive process, a hundred pounds of fresh calyces yield about ten pounds of saleable, sun-dried product.