While living in Guatemala, I was introduced to many refreshing beverages. Three in particular are great thirst quenchers, made from natural fruits or plant products. Easy to prepare, they are far healthier choices than many beverages on the market today. |
This article will discuss the ease of preparation and the benefits of beverages made from tamarind, roselle hibiscus and another beverage made from rice and seeds. All of these are particularly refreshing, and while sweetened with sugar, the amount can be modified, or substituted with another sweetening agent of choice.
Horchata, or Rice and Almond Beverage
The amounts of each ingredient used in this drink may be altered, but basically 3 tablespoons of rice are placed in water to soak for about 4 hours or overnight. The rice is rinsed well and drained, then added to a blender with 2 tablespoons of raw, unhulled sesame seed, 2 inches of true cinnamon stick, 3 tablespoons of almonds, either whole or soaked and peeled and 2 cups of water. The one uncommon ingredient I have used over the years is melon seeds. When I use a cantaloupe, I strain out the seeds, wash them and allow them to dry completely before storing in an airtight container. If you choose to go this route, use about 2 tablespoons of these seeds. They are not essential to a delicious beverage.
This mixture is blended until all ingredients are very fine. Strain the liquid into a pitcher and add in 2 more cups of water, or milk. Sweeten to taste, starting with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and add as needed. The Horchata may be sweetened with honey, agave syrup, Stevia or any other sweetener preferred.
The benefits of this beverage is the fact that one is extracting the goodness and nutrition from almonds, rice and sesame seeds. If only water is used for the liquid, there are no extra calories from the milk. Almonds are low in calories in comparison to many other nuts and good for you. Sesame seeds are quite high in calcium.
Rosa de Jamaica or Roselle Hibiscus Beverage
This beverage is made from the calyxes of the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant, often called Roselle Hibiscus. They are deep red and fleshy when fresh. Once dried, the calyxes are packaged and found in many health food stores. They may be ordered online or Mexican groceries often carry them, as they are common in Central America. In Guatemala these are called Rosa de Jamaica, or Jamaican Rose. The hibiscus plant bears small, pale yellowish hibiscus flowers, with a deep red center. The plant is not grown for the small flowers, but for the fleshy calyxes. These calyxes can be eaten raw in salads, but in Guatemala they are most often used steeped in hot water to make a healthy beverage.
These calyxes are high in vitamin C. They are high in citric acid, tartaric acid and malic acid as well as flavonoids such as cyanidin, giving them their deep red color. Most countries that cultivate and use these calyxes also consider them medicinal. Some believe the tea can help with coughs. Some studies have been done claiming that drinking the tea helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. In Guatemala it is considered a hangover remedy. Since the tea helps break down complex sugars and starches, there may be some basis in fact. As the calyxes brew a tea high in Vitamin C, it is good to drink to fight off colds and strengthen the immune system.
Place 1/2 to 1/3 cup of the dried calyxes into 2 cups of boiling hot water and allow to steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain the liquid, add in another 2 to 4 cups of water and sweeten to taste. This beverage is delicious hot or cold.
Agua de Tamarindo, or Tamarind Beverage
Tamarind, or Tamarindus indica, is known throughout the world and is possibly used in cooking more often than as a beverage. Its flavor is a component of Worcestershire sauce. It is commonly used in Indian chutney. Tamarind is native to tropical Africa, but has spread around the world. The tamarind pods grow on a tree. They have a brown, brittle shell, rusty brown, sticky pulp and may contain from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown seeds. The pulp is very fibrous. The flavor is quite sour and tart, making it excellent for use as a refreshing beverage.
Tamarind is a good source of antioxidants, containing carotenes, vitamin C, flavonoids and B vitamins. They protect against vitamin C deficiency. Tamarind is good for digestion. It can be made into a gargle for sore throat. It is said to lower cholesterol and promote a healthy heart. It is very high in potassium and provides a great supply of calcium, unusual in a fruit.
Make a beverage from about a half pound of tamarind pods by first cracking off the shell. Place the insides into water and allow to soak for 2 or more hours. Once the pulp has softened, use hands to squeeze the pulp, freeing it into the water. Strain the liquid out and add in enough more water to make 1 or 2 quarts, as desired and sweeten with sugar or other sweetening agent and chill or pour over ice.
Discover the flavors of these three delicious and healthful beverages. Seek out the ingredients and see what you may have been missing.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey. Visit my Web site A Harmony of Flavors my Blog at A Harmony of Flavors Blog my Marketplace A Harmony of Flavors Marketplace or Facebook page, A Harmony of Flavors. I hope to see you there soon.
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