Hibiscus is the flower of the Roselle Plant. It is native to West Africa, but in the 17th century, it spread to the east, Asia, and the West Indies. The edible part of the hibiscus is the calyx, a collection of sepals, which is the part of a flowering plant that holds the petals when they bloom and protects the bud.
Hibiscus has found its way into glasses and plates, in various parts of the world, like Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, and international restaurants in the United States; it is used to make a drink that is flavored in different ways.
What does hibiscus taste like? The taste of hibiscus is tart and floral, it can be a bit sour and has fruity notes. Hibiscus can be eaten fresh, which is not uncommon, but it is usually dried, or used to make tea or drink that tastes refreshing. Hibiscus has a mild, modest fragrance; it is so mild that you might think it is odorless.
The flavor profile of hibiscus makes it work with a lot of spirits (Alcohol). It can be used in cocktails and used to infuse alcoholic drinks. Hibiscus has a vibrant color that will look good on your dish also.
Nutritional Benefits of Hibiscus
Hibiscus is packed with a lot of nutritional benefits. It has a good store of antioxidants which are essential in the fight against free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause cellular damage and expose the body to harmful diseases. In a study carried out on rats, it was discovered that hibiscus can reduce the dangers of free radicals by 92%. These antioxidants are not confined to hibiscus alone; the leaves of the Roselle plant, which bears the hibiscus flower, also contain antioxidants.
Cholesterol is bad for the heart, but taking hibiscus can be an easy fix for that problem. A study was carried out, using 60 people with diabetes as the sample; they were given either black tea or hibiscus tea. After a month, the study showed that those who chose to drink hibiscus tea experienced an increase in the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol and a reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol in their body.
For patients with metabolic syndrome and diabetes, the hibiscus is excellent at regulating blood fat levels.
Hibiscus could help with weight loss. Eating or drinking things infused with hibiscus could cause a reduction in body mass index, body fat, and hip waist ratio. If you are looking to shed some pounds, it wouldn’t hurt to drink hibiscus tea or eat it.
Hibiscus might also be able to help improve liver health. The liver plays an important role in the body, ridding it of toxins and keeping us healthy. Studies carried out using hibiscus extract have shown that hibiscus might have some health benefits specifically for the liver. Taking hibiscus regularly can help improve liver steatosis, a condition where fat accumulates in the liver, ultimately leading to the failure of the organ.
Hibiscus contains polyphenols; these compounds have been known to have anti-cancer properties. Test-tube studies have shown that hibiscus extract might be able to reduce the risk of stomach cancer by up to 52 percent. These studies are just theories using a highly concentrated amount of hibiscus on test animals; in humans, it might not be as effective. However, hibiscus offers simpler benefits, like improving circulation, regulating blood pressure, and improving digestion.
Culinary Uses of Hibiscus
The most common use for hibiscus is by steeping it in water and enjoying it as a drink. But you can have hibiscus sorbet, a recipe that lacks the inclusion of fruit. The recipe has just three ingredients, which include dried hibiscus and fresh ginger to give you a tart but sweet, spicy sorbet. Hibiscus is also the star of hibiscus apple cider, which consists of crisp apples, caramel, and hibiscus.
How do you brew hibiscus tea? There is one important fact to note when brewing hibiscus. Don’t over-steep the flowers, if you do, you end up having a tea that has a bitter taste. To brew hibiscus tea, boil some water, add 2 tablespoons of hibiscus flowers; you can make use of your tea-making equipment. Let it steep for about five minutes. You have to get it right.
If you want a strong tea, let it steep a little longer; if you want a weak tea, reduce the steeping time. You can garnish the tea with honey, sugar, lemon, coconut, or ginger. Hibiscus tea is not caffeinated, so you can drink as much as you like without worrying.
Where Can Hibiscus be Found?
The Roselle plant goes by many names; in South-East Asia, it is known as Pundi Palle or Pundi Soppu. In Arabic, it is called Karkadeh. Among the Yoruba people in Nigeria, West Africa, the hibiscus plant is called ìsápá, and the hibiscus tea goes by the name Zobo. In India, the Roselle plant is commercially cultivated to be used in the production of bast fiber. The fiber is used in cordage and can be used as a substitute for jute when making burlap.
In some regions, hibiscus is known as the rose of Sharon or rose mallow. Several hibiscus species are cultivated for their ornamental value, but Hibiscus sabdariffa is an edible variety. Hibiscus is native to West Africa, but you can find them at specialty stores, or if you are persistent and patient, you might be able to buy dried hibiscus online.
Is Hibiscus Sour or Bitter?
Hibiscus can be slightly sour, but it only becomes bitter when you over-steep it. People usually sweeten it to cut back on any tart, sour, or bitter taste that it might have.
Facts You Don’t Know About Hibiscus
- Hibiscus has so many health benefits, it could help you look younger than your age.
- Hibiscus can be dangerous for pregnant women, it usually causes contractions or menstruation. Too much of it could also overwork the liver, so ingest it with moderation.