Uncovering the secret of the Sorrel Plant
Felicia had embarked upon a new business venture. She had opened a Bed and Breakfast for the Christmas season of 2017 which she named ‘Sorrel Maid.’
‘Sorrel’ to represent her Signature red drink and ‘Maid’ to indicate that the Bed and Breakfast would give the best attention and service to their guests. The Bed and Breakfast was previously an apartment rental property that her dad had renovated.
‘Ms. Felicia this is the best tasting Sorrel Drink I have ever had! Can I have another glass of Sorrel, please.’
‘Sure, Mr. John!’
‘Thanks! I will be telling my friends, back in Barbados about this place, just so that they can come and enjoy your Welcome Glass and Parting Glass of Sorrel Drink.’
Felicia smiled and eagerly watched as he excitedly gulped down his Second Glass of Sorrel, in between their chat.
‘If it’s only to make a trip for this Sorrel Drink, it’s well worth it! I ‘ent joking one bit Ms. Felicia. I am very serious!’
With those emphatic statements, he passed the empty glass of Sorrel Drink back to her and began to roll his suitcase through the lobby for his departure.
Like Mr. Richard John, the overall feedback from Felicia’s guests during the first opening in December 2017 was phenomenal, a big ‘thumbs up’!
Added to this all her guests enjoyed the Christmas Sorrel Drink just as much as her family, friends and neighbours did year after year. She was eager to prove something to her parents but maybe more to herself. Felicia Berths could stick with something for the long haul and it seemed she was off to a great start!
As a result of the reviews, Felicia decided to open again for the second quarter of 2018, just in time for the School Vacation and Easter Season in Trinidad and Tobago. To help celebrate the Easter re-opening of Sorrel Maid, Felicia had a clever idea. She would gift one of her guest from the first opening with a free three nights stay. The guest who accepted the offer was Mr. Richard John.
As an expected part of her re-opening count down, Felicia prepared her Signature Sorrel Drink in advance. The two major ingredients included endless, upon endless, upon endless pounds of red sepals which are found wrapped around the fruits of the Sorrel plant along with fragrant spices.
Felicia mixed and boiled these ingredients following a secret recipe, which was all written down in her head.
Mr. John arrived at the guest house on the evening of Monday, April 10th and Sally was entrusted with the honours of serving him the Welcome Sorrel Drink Due to an unforeseen change to his arrival time, Felicia was unable to do so personally.
The following morning Felicia was surprised to glimpse a full glass of Sorrel Drink on a table as she quickly walked through the lobby on the way to her office. A little later when Felicia enquired from Sally, she confirmed giving Mr. John the Welcome Sorrel Drink and she had suggested that he carry it to his room as he may be tired from his delayed flight. As Felicia was beginning to look worried, Sally encouraged Felicia that there was still an opportunity to serve Mr. John the Welcome Sorrel Drink herself.
Her thoughts started heading in an uncanny direction. What had caused Mr. John, who boasted less than 6 months ago that her Signature Sorrel Drink was great, to leave an untouched glass in the lobby? She began to think, if her guests no longer enjoyed the Sorrel Drink, then it was as if half her business was dead. What was the sense to continue her Bed and Breakfast because ‘Maid’ without the ‘Sorrel’ was unimaginable to her?
Felicia finally met Mr. John towards the end of breakfast. They spent about twenty minutes catching up with things. When Mr. John announced that his wife was pregnant after previous difficulties, Felicia knew this was the ideal moment to serve her Welcome Sorrel Drink as a celebration. She left briefly for the kitchen, but on returning with a tray in hand and all smiles, Mr. John kept a straight face.
‘Ms. Felicia you really didn’t have to.’
Felicia promptly reminded him that there was good news to celebrate, he was entitled to have his Welcome Sorrel Drink and he could ask for as many glasses as he wished. However, he insisted that he was already full from breakfast. Felicia could not hide the disappointment on her face. Mustering up some courage Felicia asked: ‘so what’s wrong with the Sorrel Drink? You can be straight with me Mr. John!’
‘Felicia, I honestly don’t know. I took a sip last night and it was not the same Sorrel Drink! Did you change the recipe? I don’t want you to give out your secret recipe but it’s definitely not the same Sorrel from December last year. Is it the same fruit you used?’
‘Well, not wanting to be technical, Sorrel is not made from the fruit like how orange juice is made from the pulp of the fruit. In fact, the fruit from the Sorrel plant is quite different from the fruit of the Orange tree. Sorrel produces a dry fruit without any pulp and Orange produces a fleshy fruit with pulp. Also, the Sorrel fruit which is egg-shaped or ovoid splits open as it dries, hence Sorrel produces dry dehiscent fruits”. Felicia rattled off this information without missing a beat and with unexpected confidence in her voice.
‘You sure know your Sorrel, Felicia!’
‘Thanks. And to answer your question specifically, I did use the same part of the Sorrel plant, the red sepals.’
‘I thought all sepals were green, though?’ Mr. John asked a bit puzzled.
‘Well, plants are as different as people are different. In Sorrel the sepals form a partly fused ring of five nice red sepals over each ovoid-shaped fruit. It’s quite peculiar because the sepals from the flowers enlarge covering most of the fruit rather than shrivelling up. This is what I use to make the Signature Sorrel Drink.’
Mr. John congratulated Felicia on her knowledge of plants which she reluctantly acknowledged. Mr. John promptly scolded her on playing bashful about all the knowledge she had. In fact, he also indicated to her that he clearly noticed a twinkle in her eyes along with a passion in her voice as she spoke.
At that point, Mr. John had to excuse himself to get ready for a business meeting but just before he exited the dining hall he said emphatically to Felicia: ‘you really should pursue your passion for plants, you never know where it can take you. I ‘ent joking one bit Felicia. I am very serious! Probably you can be a plant researcher and find out why my Sorrel Drink tastes differently in April. It will be well worth it!’
For a good fifteen minutes, Felicia sat pondering on what Mr. John had said while the untouched Sorrel Drink stood on the table staring back at her. His statements seemed like a key opening a padlock. Felicia needed to think. Therefore, Felicia left for home proceeding straight to her bedroom.
For the first time, she wrote out her secret Signature Sorrel Drink recipe. She looked at it over and over trying to figure out what was different about the way she made it in December 2017 compared to the way she made it April 2018. She wrote the suppliers, next to each ingredient, trying to pinpoint any slight changes. She even wrote down some of the comments of Mr. John, in case it triggered anything interesting and circled some of his words.
Then she heard a knock on the door, it was her mom. Even though she was in deep thought she could not ignore her mom as they had not spoken for the morning. Her mother wanted to know why Felicia was home at this time of the day. When Felicia had finished explaining the situation, her mother Ruby said that it sounded like an Agatha Christie Mystery minus a dead body.
Bowing her head, Felicia started to drift back into the gloomy thought of her business being dead without the Signature Sorrel Drink. With her head bowed her eyes fell upon the words she had circled on the note pad. As she raised her head it hit her like a thunderbolt. She had circled December and April. She looked at her suppliers for the Sorrel in December and April they were different. In fact, that was the only difference. December’s Sorrel was purchased from the wholesale market and April’s Sorrel was from dried packages in the grocery.
‘I figured it out, Mom! Sorrel is photoperiod sensitive!’
Her mom looked at her a bit confused.
‘There is plenty of fresh Sorrel sepals available around Christmas time but no fresh Sorrel sepals available around Easter time.’
‘Felicia, I never really thought much of it, now that you are mentioning it.’
‘Yes mom, I took it for granted. Sepals are one of the parts of Sorrel flowers. The Sorrel plant cannot produce flowers during April because the day length is too long to trigger flowering. Putting it together fresh Sorrel sepals were unavailable from the market and I had to use the dried ones.
‘Mom, Sorrel plants are similar to Pigeonpeas which also flower around Christmas time. For both plants, their flowering times are affected by or are sensitive to the light duration and this is called photoperiod sensitivity; both are called short-day plants. So no flowers in April meant no fresh Sorrel sepals and a different tasting Sorrel Drink for Mr. John.
Her mom congratulated Felicia on remembering this heavy stuff and acknowledged that she seemed to enjoy sharing about it. Felicia decided to call Sally and ask her to coordinate things for the rest of the evening. She wanted to read up some more about photoperiod sensitivity because she had remembered glimpsing that plant pigments called phytochromes are involved in its measurement and detection.
Felicia mentioned to her mom that she wanted to search for a Sorrel variety that is not photoperiod sensitive and thus would flower year-round. On asking her mom what she thought of this idea, her mom wholeheartedly agreed with it and encouraged her to go for it. Her mom then recalled that the previous day, while watching the NOW morning show, there was a guest from the university that was sharing about newly developed Pigeonpeas varieties. They had also mentioned the phrase year-round to describe them.
Felicia nearly shrieked because it meant that if they could do that for Pigeonpeas it could be done for Sorrel. She definitely had some plant researchers to meet. She was not certain how long the whole plant breeding process of changing the present characteristics of Sorrel to year-round flowering would take, but she knew she wanted to be part of it for the long haul.
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