You have probably already stood wide-eyed before this gorgeous pink flower, with images of the sun, adventurous travels, and far-flung lands flying through your head. But did you know it is also edible? And not just edible, but also used to make delicious infusions! Whether this is the first time you have heard of it or you have already tried it, we would like to teach you a few things about the hibiscus flower.
What exactly is this plant?
There are several varieties of hibiscus, but only the hibiscus sabdariffa is edible. In certain countries, other names have replaced the Latin term, such as oseille in Guinea, bissap in Senegal, and flor de Jamaica in Mexico. Don’t be fooled, however, as they all refer to the same plant!
This shrub is part of the mallows or Malvaceae family, and is originally from West Africa where it grows in abundance. In Senegal, for example, hibiscus grows across the country and is harvested by hand. The flowers are a local delicacy, and the infused liquor is a hugely popular beverage enjoyed both on a daily basis and for special occasions.
How do you infuse it?
While the leaves can also be used in cooking (raw in salads, or cooked like vegetables), only the hibiscus flowers are infused after first being dried. As for its seasons, hibiscus sabdariffa flowers from May through October. When its petals wilt and fall, all that remains is the stem and the plant’s bright red “fruit” known as calyxes. These protect the buds before they bloom and are the parts of the hibiscus that are picked and dried before infusing.
When concocting their hibiscus tea, Africans infuse the dried calyxes in hot water before adding their favorite other ingredients such as cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, mint leaves, ginger, and/or a little sugar. And with that, the infusion is ready! Hibiscus is also used to flavor pastries and savory dishes, as well as to make tarts and jams.
An infusion loved by all
Hibiscus-based infusions are a feast for the eyes – thanks to their intense, garnet-red color – as well as bursting with flavor. The flowers offer slightly acidic, floral, and fruity tastes all at once, in a wonderful combination of sweetness and bold character. Hibiscus tea can also be enjoyed throughout the day as it contains no theine. This beverage is sure to delight friends and family, young and old alike, and is easy to pair with a vast variety of dishes and cuisines. And if that wasn’t enough, it can be also be savored both hot and iced, making it the perfect drink whatever the weather!
Given the current temperatures, you’ll soon be serving your happy guests with jugs filled with a delicious Aqua Exotica infusion and lots of clinking ice at your next garden party!