Most people recognize hibiscus plants for their aesthetically-pleasing flowers. And while there’s no denying these flowers are stunning, hibiscus plants have uses other than adding ornamental value, including being edible! Join us as we explore the ways you can eat hibiscus flowers.
Are Hibiscus Flowers Edible?
Yes, hibiscus flowers are edible! While the entire flower is edible, many people focus on consuming the flower’s calyx.
The calyx is the term used to refer to the collective grouping of a flower’s sepals. The sepals are modified leaves that sit under a flower’s petals.
Along with eating the plant’s calyces, people also consume hibiscus flower petals.
How Do People Eat Hibiscus?
Since various hibiscus species exist worldwide, it is no surprise that people across the globe consume the plant. Here are some of the most common ways people eat hibiscus flowers.
This bright red, tart tea is the most common way that people consume hibiscus flowers. It is brewed by steeping the calyces of Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as roselle.
You can find many different variations of this beverage around the world. Depending on the region, people may enjoy the tea hot or cold and with or without sweeteners and other flavorings.
Since Hibiscus sabdariffa likely originated in West Africa, it’s not surprising that hibiscus tea is a staple in this region. People refer to it by names including bissap, nobolo, and zobo.
Hibiscus tea is also enjoyed in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. It goes by names such as agua de Jamaica, saril, and sorrel in these areas.
Variations of hibiscus tea are also consumed in Cambodia, Thailand, India, Italy, and Egypt.
Candied Flower Petals
The petals of hibiscus flowers are also edible. You can steep the petals to make tea, but you can also candy them and use them to decorate items like cakes.
Candying the petals involves cooking them in a sugary syrup and then dredging them in loose sugar.
People often use hibiscus flowers to add a sour flavor to dishes.
The flowers are sometimes used in Senegal to add tart notes to the national dish known as thieboudienne. Although this dish varies depending on the region and family recipe, it usually consists of rice, fish, tomato, and seasonings.
While hibiscus flowers are the most commonly consumed part of the plant, some people also eat hibiscus leaves.
Hibiscus surattensis, commonly known as bush sorrel, is known for its tart-tasting leaves and shoots. The greens of this plant are used as a souring agent in the Filipino soup sinigang and the chicken dish tinolang manok.
People often use the leaves of the commonly consumed Hibiscus sabdariffa to add a sour flavor to certain dishes.
What Is the Best Type of Hibiscus for Eating?
If you’re growing hibiscus for its culinary uses, you’ll want to select some species over others. Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as roselle, Jamaican sorrel, or red sorrel, is the hibiscus that is most commonly grown for edible purposes.
This hibiscus species is prized for its tart-tasting calyces.
Since this is a tropical hibiscus, it is not cold-tolerant. However, you purchase hibiscus flowers dried and in syrup.
How to Make Hibiscus Tea
Although you can buy pre-made hibiscus tea, it is also easy to make your own version at home. Simply gather hibiscus calyces and follow these brewing steps.
- Start with either fresh or dried hibiscus calyces or flower petals. Aim for a ratio of one part dried hibiscus to eight parts water.
- Boil water and pour the water over the hibiscus flowers. Steep for at least ten minutes or up to 24 hours.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer and press the flowers with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Enjoy as is or mix sweeten with sugar, honey, or juice.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Does Hibiscus Tea Taste Like?
Hibiscus tea has a distinctly-tart flavor that tastes a bit like cranberry juice. Although the tea is not sweet on its own, people often add sugar, honey, or juice to add a sweet flavor.
What Are the Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea?
Hibiscus tea is rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and anthocyanins. It may help lower blood pressure and improve liver health.
What parts of the hibiscus plant are edible?
The flowers, leaves, and calyx (the part that holds the flower petals) of the hibiscus plant are all edible.
How are hibiscus flowers used in cooking?
Hibiscus flowers are often used to make tea, jams, jellies, and syrups. They can also be used in salads or as a garnish for desserts.
Are there any side effects to eating hibiscus flowers?
While hibiscus flowers are generally safe to eat, they may interact with certain medications, and excessive consumption may cause stomach upset.
Can you eat hibiscus flowers from any type of hibiscus plant?
While most varieties of hibiscus are edible, some are more commonly used in cooking than others. The most commonly used species for culinary purposes are Hibiscus sabdariffa, Hibiscus acetosella, and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.
Where can you buy hibiscus flowers for cooking?
Hibiscus flowers can be purchased at specialty grocery stores, health food stores, or online. They can be found fresh, dried, or in the form of tea bags or extract.
Are Hibiscus Flowers Edible: Wrapping Up
Some types of hibiscus produce edible flowers, leaves, and shoots. People often use hibiscus flowers to make tart tea and impart a sour flavor to dishes.
For more, see our in-depth guide to hibiscus flower meaning and symbolism.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.
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