• December 10, 2023

What is Hibiscus? For Starters, It’s Not Exactly a Flower

If you ever had Hibiscus teaYou had Zobo. In Nigeria we call this the cup of the deep red, edible hibiscus, the Hibiscus sabdariffa.

What is hibiscus

Often – and incorrectly – described as a flower, the hibiscus we cook with is a collection of sepals (known as the calyx), the part of a flowering plant that protects the bud and supports the petal once in full bloom. Before the plant blooms, the calyx resembles a pointed bud that holds the seed coat, but it does unfolds as the Flowers push through the pod.

Where does the hibiscus come from?

Probably native to There are many names for hibiscus in West Africa, East Africa, Southeast Asia or Northeast India: Bissap in parts of West Africa; Karkade in North Africa (particularly Egypt, Sudan, and South Sudan); Rosela, Rosella, Grosella and Sorrel in Indonesia, Australia, as well as in the Caribbean and Latin America; Mathipuli in Kerala; Krachiap in Thailand; Luo Shen Hua in China; and Flor de Jamaica in Mexico and throughout North America.

While the deep red hibiscus variety is the most common worldwide, there are other colors, from beige to rose to yellow. One would expect the color differences to create significant differences in taste, but that’s not the case. The taste is similar, except that the lighter varieties tend to be more tart and sour, while the darker varieties are fuller and more robust.

Hibiscus is the defining ingredient of the Jamaican Christmas sorrel punch, where it is combined with citrus fruits, flavors, spices and occasionally rum. (The plant used to be available in the Caribbean only at this time of year, although it is now harvested all year round.)

How does hibiscus taste and how is it commonly used?

When I think of the taste of Zobo, I think of it as floral, sour and sour with notes of forest fruits. While it is edible fresh, it is most common to find it dried. You will often see it submerged in water to make tea, and cooked into jams and jelliesbecause it is rich in pectin.

For drinks, you can enjoy it plain, sweetened or unsweetened, or combine it with whole or ground spices (such as cloves, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon), flavors such as fresh or dried ginger, and with fruit juices and alcohol (think sangria). Most people sweeten hibiscus with sugar, honey, dates, fruit, and a lot more. In Nigeria, sliced ​​dried ginger, whole cloves and fresh pineapple (skin, meat and core) are common additives.

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