Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa, Malvaceae)
Parts Used: Flowers (technically, calyces)
Brewed as a puckery red tea, hibiscus is enjoyed as a refreshing and medicinal beverage throughout the world. The sour red “fruits” are also enjoyed in jams, chutneys, conserves, and alcoholic fermented beverages. Hibiscus has been widely adopted in tropical regions around the globe as a refreshing medicinal food and beverage. It is quite popular in the Caribbean and Central America as a cold herbal tea mixed with sugar; this drink is called sorrel in the islands and agua de flor de Jamaica in Mexico. It is also widely used in Africa and South America as a beverage tea, medicinal herb, and food. In many parts of the world, roselle “fruits” are sold fresh at market. Roselle has been used medicinally in many traditional cultures for its diuretic, hypotensive, and antimicrobial properties. In Mexico, roselle is highly regarded as a natural liver and kidney tonic and weight-loss herb. With its demulcent and soothing qualities, hibiscus is also used acutely to assuage colds, mouth sores, and sore throat. Visit my blog on the Medicinal Benefits of Hibiscus to learn more.
Hibiscus is my kind of herb. It is highly medicinal and nutritive and easily prepared in a hundred different ways. Hibiscus is incredibly safe—it is a traditional food, after all. I readily admit to having dreamed up more recipes with hibiscus than with any other herb. Both the immature leaves and calyces are edible. The flavor of the juicy calyx is often likened to rhubarb or cranberry. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Its sour flavor, coupled with its natural pectin content, readily lends itself to jams, pies, sauces, and sun teas. Infused in honey, hibiscus makes a lovely garnet-colored treat with a delectably fruity flavor. And of course, hibiscus chutney is a flavonoid-rich family favorite at my house, which is why I’ve shared the recipe here!
To learn about growing hibiscus in your own garden and gathering up a big basket of these ruby jewels, please visit my article on Hibiscus Pomegranate Fire Cider.