Are all hibiscus flowers edible? The quick answer is there are hundreds of species in the Hibiscus genus and many of them are indeed edible, but we cannot generalize them as a whole.
Read on to discover the most common species of hibiscus that are edible, the flavors and parts of the plant used, and some delicious recipes that you can make today.
Edible Species of Hibiscus
Some background info
Hibiscuses are tropical plants. They are part of the Mallow family and are okra relatives. If you aren’t familiar with okra, it has a mucilaginous or gooey substance that is quite common in the mallow family.
You will find this characteristic has made its way into the hibiscus genus as well. Take a look at the most common edible species of hibiscus below and what parts of the plant are most often consumed.
Different Edible Species
Hibiscus sabdariffa: Common names – Florida Cranberry; Roselle; Jamaican Sorrel
As a general, rule this is the most commonly spoken of species. It is the only species with fleshy edible red crowns most people think of when they see hibiscus.
The plant can be a short-lived perennial hibiscus species if you live in zones 9-13, but it can also be brought inside in a container to extend its life.
Hibiscus syriacus: Common name – Rose of Sharon
Mainly grown for ornamental purposes, this plant does also contain an edible hibiscus flower. Any variety of this species is edible, but be sure to double-check that you have this variety because the common name is shared with other plants.
Hibiscus acetosella: Common names – Cranberry Hibiscus; False Roselle
A common variety used is called ‘Panama Red’ Hibiscus. It has beautiful red foliage which helped develop its common name of ‘Cranberry Hibiscus’ and also makes for a great showy ornamental.
This variety is mainly eaten for the leaves and you can put them in salads or cook them like spinach.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis: Common name – Chinese Hibiscus
This beauty has colorful blossoms and the young hibiscus leaves are edible. It is, again, a tropical hibiscus and it is grown throughout the tropics as an edible plant and one used for its medicinal properties.
Parts of Plants Used
To summarize, you can use the following parts of edible hibiscus (depending on the species):
- Young leaves; new growth or tender leaves
- Seed pod also known as the calyx – this is the red fleshy crown
- Flower petals
Flavors of Hibiscus
Depending on the part of the plant used it can have the following flavors:
- Lemony flavor
- Sour flavor or tart
Get ready for some inspiration! Hibiscus has a wide number of uses. I think many of these recipes are sure to please.
1. Hibiscus Tea
A tart, hot herbal tea can be just the thing to warm you up in winter. Likewise, in the summertime, it is quite popular as an iced tea, especially in the Caribbean and Central America. You can make a basic recipe that is always a winner or feel a little frisky with the spiced version.
Classic Hibiscus Iced Tea Recipe
Spiced Up Hibiscus Iced Tea Recipe – Agua de Jamaica
2. Ice Cream
Summer is not complete without some creamy, cold ice cream. Try out the recipe below for a bit of a twist. Adding in hibiscus isn’t the only unique flavor in this delightful recipe.
And to make things even better, this recipe is dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and vegan-friendly.
3. Salads, Wraps, Cooked Spinach
Use the edible leaves in all the ways you can use leafy greens. In the recipe below, you can use the greens to make an easy wrap for on-the-go meals.
You can make all sorts of hibiscus boozy wonders. I’d say start with the recipe below for some fantastic margaritas you will come back to time and time again.
With natural pectin, a key ingredient for making jam, hibiscus makes the perfect addition to any jelly. In the recipe below, it takes center stage. In addition, a little toast with this jam will start your morning off right!
There is absolutely nothing like a good chutney to fill you with vigor and energy. The complexity of the ingredients all intermixed is a dream. More over, you’ll be dreaming about this chutney after trying the recipe below.
There is something about savory dishes that is intensely satisfying. Salsas make the cut in this regard. To sum it up, this recipe has a mix of “sweet, sour, salty, and spicy” according to the author. Grab the chips!
According to the authors of this recipe, “your salad will have a bold and fresh flavor”. I kind of like the sound of that in a world that can sometimes be mundane. Freshen up your salad and dips with this tasty recipe.
We found an incredible recipe that not only has the tart hibiscus flavor you love, but the cooling side of mint with a splash of lime that balances out the whole popsicle. Share with your whole family and make some summertime memories.
You can use this in cocktails, lemonade, and over ice cream and pancakes. The possibilities are endless. Follow this simple recipe to get started.
Take a minute to just imagine what a honey infused with hibiscus would taste like. My taste buds are buzzing with anticipation. Use your own honey or some from your local beekeeper.
The hibiscus frosting makes this meringue-like dish sure to wow your friends. Easy to make, and you can find many of the ingredients needed right on their website.
13. Banana Bread
Spice up this classic bread with our plant of the day. The tartness gives a little kick to the bread. In addition, this recipe is gluten-free and vegan!
Many cultures respect hibiscus for its potential health benefits. Here is a list of some of the common ones specifically for Hibiscus sabdariffa [ 1 ].
- Healthy levels of Vitamin C
- May boost your immune system
- May help control blood pressure
- May help reduce cholesterol
Summary: Hibiscus Flowers Are Yummy
In conclusion, are all hibiscus flowers edible? Probably not, but the ones that are sure are good. I think this is a wonderful plant to grow at home.
If you have a big window that provides full sun you even have the opportunity to grow it as a container plant (or can always use a grow light). Definitely don’t miss out on the opportunity to have these beautiful flowers in your home.
To your indoor gardening success!
[ 1 ] Montalvo-González, E., Villagrán, Z., González-Torres, S., Iñiguez-Muñoz, L. E., Isiordia-Espinoza, M. A., Ruvalcaba-Gómez, J. M., Arteaga-Garibay, R. I., Acosta, J. L., González-Silva, N., & Anaya-Esparza, L. M. (2022). Physiological Effects and Human Health Benefits of Hibiscus sabdariffa: A Review of Clinical Trials. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 15(4), 464. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph15040464