Eat A Hibiscus: Roselle


Hibiscus sabdariffa

There are several edible and beautiful Hibiscus species you can eat. At one time, Roselle was common in gardens (back when we used to not be so dependent on a grocery store for our food). Roselle can provide valuable greens in the summer when your winter greens are rarer to find. What is more, Roselle is a Hibiscus species, which mean the plants are gorgeous. The flowers are the sort of beautiful hibiscus flower you know. The red calyces (which surround the seed pod) give a garden striking red color–and are also useful as we will discuss below. You may think this plant is too gorgeous to eat. 

Roselle can be grown in container or the ground. Start from seed in early spring after threat of frost is over, or start seedlings early inside. There are MANY varieties to choose from which offer color variation in leaves and flowers. Plant in full to part sun in regular garden soil. Plants can become quite large, but the frost will take them down to the ground. If you want to carry plants through the winter, protect from frost. Prune hard to encourage new growth in spring if you have saved your plants from the previous season, or just save seeds and plant new in spring. Whitefly is occasionally a problem, but mostly in greenhouses, when there are too many plants in one spot, or if plants are stressed.

The young leaves and tender stems of roselle are eaten raw in salads or cooked as greens alone or in combination with other vegetables and/or with meat. They are also added to curries as seasoning. Sometimes the are also fried, especially with fish or prawns. They have an acid, rhubarb-like flavor.

The calyx around the seed pod is the most popular part of the plant used for food. It is used to make tea, sauces, jellies and syrups. Remove the calyces, the red things around the seed pod, and boil them in water (the water will turn red). This drink is often sweetened and rum is often added for those of us who like to have a good time.

Here is a way to make Roselle wine.

Baker Creek has a red variety from Thailand.


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