farmer said to be first in Palmetto state to harvest hibiscus | Food

BUCKSPORT – The Yauhannah Bridge crossing the Great Pee Dee River connects Georgetown and Horry counties northbound on US Highway 701.

At the intersection of the freeway is Bucksport Road; drive another mile and you will come to Mishoe Road, named after the family which is synonymous with the town of 735.

Kevin Mishoe grew up in this quaint community of eight churches within the same 5 mile radius that has only a handful of restaurants. Standing on his family farm, Mishoe shows where his brother, aunts and cousins ​​live just steps from land once cultivated by his grandfather Lonnie Mishoe, a major meat, vegetable and tobacco producer in Bucksport.

“I come from a long line of farmers,” said Kevin Mishoe, who calls his current farm Mishoe Legacy Farms. “We are doing this in memory of our grandparents, Lonnie and Retta Mishoe. Today, many people still say to our family, “Without your grandfather, my family would have starved to death. He was one of the main producers of jobs.

Kevin Mishoe stands in his hibiscus field at Bucksport on November 18, 2021. Caroline Gutman / Special to The Post and Courier

Today goats and chickens reside on the farm, growing cabbage, turnips, butter beans, peas, peanuts, sweet potatoes and okra.

Hibiscus, a crop new to Mishoe Legacy Farms and the State of South Carolina, could change everything for the Mishoe and Bucksport.

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Sorrel tempering

The floral flavor of hibiscus is found in teas, jams, syrups and even cocktails. While the exact origin of the hibiscus plant, called Roselle, is unknown, many believe it to originate from West Africa, where it is still cultivated today.

All parts of the plant are edible: the leaves can be cooked like winter vegetables, served raw in a salad or given to goats as a supplement to their daily diet. At the bottom of each hibiscus flower is the calyx, an outer shell that contains the pod of the plant. The bright red bulbs, sometimes called sorrel, are dehydrated and steeped in simmering water to make tea.

Hibiscus bud

A hibiscus bud in the Mishoes fields at Bucksport on November 18, 2021. Caroline Gutman / Special to The Post and Courier

“The most popular end product is the chalice itself,” Mishoe said, pointing to a bag of Dat Gullah Libbin ‘Sorrel that he started selling this year. “It makes a great tea for your blood pressure, it’s packed with antioxidants and various vitamins. Jam, jelly, wine, syrup, cakes; so many different by-products that come out of it.

Mishoe is believed to be the first South Carolina farmer to harvest hibiscus (the Bucksport native says he is the first, and the SC Agriculture Department has not found another farmer to harvest hibiscus). ‘hibiscus in the State).

Realizing that hibiscus was a West African plant, Mishoe’s uncle obtained dried sorrel and seeds at the Bucksport flea market from Hispanics who brought it from Mexico.

“The hibiscus is part of the okra family,” Mishoe said, adding that okra was brought to America by African slaves. “Well, same with sorrel, (which) is a West African product but it has become mostly native to the islands and Jamaica and those places. But it’s still a West African hibiscus that has been brought to America from Africa, and it has become a food staple of Gullah-Geechee.

The Mishoes began planting hibiscus in their home gardens in 2016. Five years later, they’ve planted about a quarter of an acre, and over 5 acres of Mishoe Legacy Farms will be dedicated to hibiscus in 2022.

Mishoe hibiscus field

The Mishoes’ hibiscus fields at Bucksport on November 18, 2021. Caroline Gutman / Special to The Post and Courier

Seedlings are planted in early spring and Mishoe says their biggest harvest is in late September. Three to four other smaller harvests take place throughout the summer months, Mishoe said. When the season is over and the plants dry, Mishoe collects the seeds and plows the land for the next year.

“Once you make that first plant, it adapts to the soil, so the seed now has a genetic code for that soil,” Mishoe said. “Once you’ve planted your first crop, you remove your own seeds from the soil and replant them in that soil. Then you get a much better plant year after year.

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After demand increased for their dried sorrel, Mishoe realized he had the opportunity to make hibiscus an important part of his farm and Bucksport’s future.

“We have our regional niches. It just didn’t happen in South Carolina, ”Mishoe said. “I’m sure a lot of people will start to see the benefits of growing this product, but it just hasn’t had the recognition it has in Florida, for example.”

Bucksport building

The town of Bucksport dates back to the 1820s, when it had a harbor and a mill. Some members of the predominantly black community have ancestors who were enslaved and worked in the factory.

Hurricanes and annual flooding have taken their toll on Bucksport for the past five years. Houses have been damaged, the inhabitants have been displaced and the city has not been able to provide consistent employment opportunities.

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As president of the Association for the Improvement of Bucksport, Mishoe helps residents trying to access federal funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and he recently led a workshop that provided guidelines for creating wills. , inheritance management and title clearing. The organization also aims to “create strategies that break the cycle of community and concentrated poverty and promote business attraction and entrepreneurship,” according to its website.

Hibiscus coring

Kevin Mishoe carrots the bud of a hibiscus plant near his home in Bucksport on November 18, 2021. Caroline Gutman / Special to The Post and Courier

Mishoe sees hibiscus as a major job creator in the small town that is moving forward.

Harvesting hibiscus is a laborious process, as each seed is removed from the calyx by hand using a tool similar to an apple corer. Realizing the growth potential of the crop, Mishoe has more properties and a facility fitted with equipment that would streamline the process in his sights.

“We want to create a job here and produce the product properly,” Mishoe said, adding that the Bucksport hibiscus plant was already under contract. “It will also reduce the scourge because the building has been barricaded for some time. It is therefore already doing what we want for the community: create jobs, take over old buildings, renovate them. This product has already started this cycle.

Mishoe believes in the ability of the hibiscus to change the trajectory of the city. Maybe it is his optimism or his desire to provide for the needs of the community like his grandparents did. Or maybe it was the magnificent pink-red blooming hibiscus that piqued the curiosity of residents last summer.

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Hibiscus car

Kevin Mishoe offers a sample of hibiscus juice to a passer-by who stopped by to ask about the hibiscus fields at Bucksport on November 18, 2021. Caroline Gutman / Special to The Post and Courier

“My daughter-in-law told me about it and I’ve been drinking it ever since,” said a woman from Bucksport who drove to Mishoe’s van to buy dried hibiscus on Nov. 18.

Shortly after, a car pulled up on Bucksport Road and Mishoe crashed with a sample of a sweet Jamaican sorrel drink made by combining dried hibiscus with ginger, sugar and allspice. It’s tangy, earthy, and unmistakably refreshing; the type of tea you could sip all day.

Southern Carolinians may be doing just that in the near future.

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