Hibiscus - The flavorful flower of love

The hibiscus shrub is recognized around the world for its largevibrantly colored blossoms, and is a favorite in the garden to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. While most people admire the stunning blooms in the garden, a lot of people do not expect much more of this flower in a culinary sense.  Hibiscus flowers are actually another story - they are tart, with a cranberry like flavor that are added to a wide variety of beverages and foods, from tea blends, sauces and beers to roasted dishes as well as sorbet and other desserts.

The hibiscus flower additionally holds a place of prominence in the meaning of flowers - yellow-colored for good fortune, pink for deep friendship, purple for rich intellectual insight and red for fiery passion and eternal love. In Hawaii, wherein hibiscus is actually the unofficial national flower, when a woman puts a hibiscus blossom behind her left ear, it signals that she is available, and when worn on the right, that she is taken. Globally, the flower is linked with feminine beauty. Like beauty and youth, nonetheless, the blossom fades fast. Thankfully, its lovely chemical composition may be preserved for soaps, beauty concoctions like blush, lip-gloss and tints that work for skin and hair.

Hibiscus occurs naturally in tropical parts throughout the globemost particularly ChinaMadagascar, IndiaHawaii and Fiji. The 8 species of hibiscus authentic to these regions are actually thought to be the parents of the three hundred related species which continue to exist today, along with many hybrids. Although the original 8 are actually cross compatible with one another and also have been used to produce new variations for over 3 centuriestheir hybrid offspring aren't. Collectivelyall hibiscus species are actually part of the Malvaceae familywhich also includes cacao, cotton, okra, and mallow.

The island nation of Mauritius off the eastern coast of Africa is of particular significance in the history of hibiscus. Lots of native plants have traveled from this island to various other areas of the planet since the early 18th century. Charles Telafair, a renowned botanist and surgeon with the British Navy left Belfast, Ireland in the early 19th century. He and his wife Annabella documented their 20 year journey of creating hybrid hibiscus flowers. Their contributions to horticulture continue to be honored currently - the colonial château that Annabella and Charles occupied was turned into a restaurant, where watercolor painting of hibiscus and other flora adorn the walls. The beautiful paintings were done by Annabella, a true botanist and artist. The name of the most prominent college on the island was renamed Charles Telfair Institute.

There are a lot of different names for hibiscuseach unique to the sizable path this exotic flower has traveled to around the world. Probably the most common name is roselle. This name specifically refers to the Hibiscus sabdariffaa species with crimson flowers indigenous to Africa also referred to as red sorrelcarcade as well as Florida cranberry. The latter is actually a reference to the popularity of the flower with 'Cracker Cowboys of Florida'early settlers as well as 'cow hunters' of Irish and Scottish descent named for the sound of a cracking whip, hibiscus was consumed while herding cattle. These dayschopped hibiscus flowers are actually used instead of cranberries to create Florida "Cranberry" Sauce.

Other common names in Africa are Jamaica sorrel, Flor de JamaicaGuinea sorrel and Indian sorrel. In AustraliaQueensland jelly plant and rosella fruit. In the Middle East it's known as karkadeNigerians named it isapa and in Nepal it's belchanda. In India Hibiscus is widely known as ambadi where they mix it with green chilies and garlic into a chutney served with flat bread, which happens to be a favorite breakfast for farmers. Other parts of the worldhibiscus is known as vinagreira, chin baung, chaye torosh, quiabo roxo and at least a dozen other known names.

In Mexico it is widely consumed as a delicious beverage you may be well aware of called Jamaica (Ha-my-kah), where they brew large batches of hibiscus with spices, lime and a lot of sugar.
At Blendbee we use hibiscus in a lot of our tea blends to create beautiful tart, cranberry like flavor. You can add hibiscus to any custom tea blend, and you'll find it in the "fruit" section as opposed to the floral, because it's flavor far more resembles fruit.
Use the search bar above and type in Hibiscus to find all of our blends that use this delicious flower. Here at the Tea-hive, our favorite hibiscus blends are:
Jamaica Me Blush, Crimson Kiss, Turm It Up,  and Ruby Tonic.
References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibiscus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Telfair
https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Hibiscus_sabdariffa_(PROTA)
Images from:
Monterey Bay Spice Company

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