The addition of ashes is a tradition of this soup that many Nigerian South Western mothers do not skip. The essence of adding ashes is to remove all or some of the tangy taste of the hibiscus. You really won’t like the taste of ishapa soup if the roselle tastes tangy. The typical woman from Kwara state would parboil as I described in step 1. However, if you travel to Ekiti state, women like my mom will often boil water, pour ashes over the roselles in a bowl. After boiling the water, they’d pour it over the roselle and ashes, cover it and allow to sit and steam for some minutes, usually till the water becomes cold.
The difference between the Ekiti and Kwara method is that when ishapa is parboiled over fire as is done in Kwara, it has the chance to get as soft as possible. Whereas, sitting the ishapa in hot water doesn’t provide it with the maximum heat that will soften it. Hence, the ishapa will usually not turn out so soft. But, in the process of carrying out step 9 of this recipe, the ishapa becomes further cooked and softened to taste regardless of the method used in step 1.
Although, I’ve never skipped this part of the recipe step, a few other cooks out there have tried it. I cannot guarantee you a fabulous taste but if you feel awkward adding ashes to a vegetable to be consumed, you can skip the whole process.