[ the sweet story of HIBISCUS ] ~ from HerbCo
[ romancing roselle ] ~ from Herbco
The hibiscus shrub is known the world over for its large, vibrantly colored flowers, and is an old-fashioned favorite in the garden to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. While we all admire the spectacular blooms in the landscape, many people don’t expect much more of the flower in a culinary sense than to provide a colorful accent to the main fare on the plate. But the dried flowers are another story – they lend a tart, cranberry-like flavor to a variety of foods and beverages, from tea blends, beers and sauces to roasted meats and sorbet.
The hibiscus flower also holds a place of prominence in the language of flowers – yellow for good fortune, pink for friendship, purple for intellectual insight and red for eternal love and fiery passion. In Hawaii, where hibiscus is the unofficial national flower, a woman who tucks the flower behind her left ear signals she is available, and when placed behind the right she indicates she is spoken for. Globally, the flower is associated with feminine beauty. Like youth and beauty, however, the blossom fades quickly. Fortunately, its charming chemical composition can be preserved in soaps, blushers and in other cosmetics for skin and hair. Read on to learn the history of hibiscus flower.

try pairing some HERBS + SPICES with dried hibiscus
buy bulk dried rose petals
bulk dried rose petal, whole
Rose petals add color interest and mild sweetness to hibiscus tea blends, as well as in simple syrups for desserts and cocktails.
buy bulk whole black peppercorn
bulk black peppercorn, whole
Whole crushed peppercorns are an excellent companion to roselle in marinades and rubs for meats.
buy bulk dried orange peel
bulk dried orange peel, small cut
The tang and mild sweetness of citrus peel tempers the cranberry-like tartness of hibiscus in teas, syrups and sauces.
buy bulk dried lavender flower
bulk lavender flower, whole
Hibiscus and lavender pair beautifully in lip balms, soaps and other skin and hair care formulas.
buy bulk cumin seed
bulk cumin seed, whole
The warmth of cumin combines perfectly with tart roselle to add depth to many dishes.
buy bulk chili pepper powder
bulk chili pepper powder, powder
A dash (or two) of chili powder in combination with hibiscus produces a flavor that has everyone asking…"what is that ingredient?"

“He told her the story of the missionary's bride who wrote home describing her bungalow in an African forest clearing. "Outside my window as I write is a magnificent hibiscus with hundreds of blooms making a splendid splash of color against the jungle." A year later, she wrote again, and she said outside her window was that "damned hibiscus, still blooming.”
— William C. Heine, The Last Canadian

“Blood-coloured bottlebrush trees and scarlet hibiscus looked too bright for this devastated world.”
— Jane Wilson-Howarth, Snowfed Waters

hibiscus blossoms

try some HIBISCUS recipes
hibiscus quesadillas
Quesadilla con Flor Jamaica
(Hibiscus Quesadillas)

In Mexico, the vegetarian answer to tasty and satisfying quesadillas sans the meat is hibiscus sautéed with onion, garlic, cumin and chili powder and layered with queso fresco or Monterey jack cheese between flour tortillas.

1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
4 cups water
1 tablespoon oil
½ a small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
4 tortillas
1 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese (or jack)
Fresh cilantro

Place the hibiscus flowers in a saucepan and cover with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest, while still covered, for a minute. Drain, reserving the rehydrated flowers (tip: save he liquid for tea or to make a simple syrup for cocktails).

Heat the oil is a skillet until shimmering. Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add rehydrated hibiscus and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cover; let cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in salt, cumin and chili powder.

Layer two of the tortillas with cheese, cilantro (adjust amount to your liking) and the cooked hibiscus mixture; top with another tortilla. Heat quesadillas is a lightly greased skillet until lightly browned and cheese is melted. Let cool before cutting into wedges. Service with sour cream and sliced avocados, if you wish.
hibiscus sorbet
Hibiscus Sorbet
Roselle lends glorious color and tart sweetness to this elegant frozen dessert, while chili pepper adds just the right amount of heat!

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup whole dried hibiscus flowers
½ teaspoon chili powder

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil while stirring. After two minutes, stir in hibiscus and chili powder. Turn off the heat and cover; let steep 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to help sugar dissolve. Strain; reserving liquid in a ceramic or glass bowl.

Let the liquid cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for 4-5 hours. After chilling, pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.
hibiscus quesadillas
Sirope de Flor de Jamica
(Hibiscus Sauce)

This sweet and tart sauce is not only delicious served over pound cake, waffles or ice cream, but it makes for a colorful presentation as well.  

1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons chopped orange peel
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the hibiscus flowers in a saucepan and cover with the water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and cover; let steep for 15 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid.

Return the liquid to the pan and add sugar. Bring to a boil again, stirring often to help sugar dissolve. Continue simmer over medium heat until liquid thickens and is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in orange peel and cinnamon, cover and let steep 10 minutes. Strain sauce into a glass or ceramic bowl and cover. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

related NEWSLETTERS to browse

The Hibiscus Flower: Its Meanings and Symbolism

Hidden Valley Hibiscus: The History of Hibiscus

University of Florida: Roselle

Inês Da-Costa-Rocha, Bernd Bonnlaender, Hartwig Sievers, et al. Hibiscus sabdariffa L. —A phytochemical and pharmacological review Food Chemistry, Volume 165, 15 December 2014, Pages 424-443

Yagoub Ael-G, Mohamed BE, Ahmed AH, El Tinay AH. Study on furundu, a traditional Sudanese fermented roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) seed: effect on in vitro protein digestibility, chemical composition, and functional properties of the total proteins. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 2004 Oct 6;52(20):6143-50.