I have lately been obsessed with Hibiscus sabdariffa. I ordered some dried herb for a bitter that I was making and one day I made iced tea with it. I added some honey to sweeten and it was the perfect cool down on a hot Summer’s day. I was intrigued by this plant and set out to learn more about it.
The seed, literally, was planted earlier this year. I ordered seeds from my favorite medicinal seed company, Strictly Medicinal Seeds, and started a few in my greenhouse this Spring. They all germinated but I managed to kill off all but two. They grew rather rapidly. I kept re-potting them and eventually had them in the largest pots I could find. I decided to transplant one in the ground and see what happens. It was not great soil as it’s an area I’ve been developing for the last couple of years. It also gets a whole lot of hot afternoon sun. I was surprised that it did really well. The other plant I left in a pot but it grew to be so big that I was having to water it everyday and decided it would be better to put it in the ground too. It was a little farther along when I transplanted in the heat of the Summer so it did OK, but did not grow as big as the first transplant.
There are many varieties of Hibiscus and most people will probably think of the big, bright blooms like these:
Many varieties are edible, but you would need to research to confirm if the variety you are growing is edible.
What I have grown is Hibiscus sabdariffa, a particular variety best known for its edibility. It’s a large, fast growing shrub; an annual in my zone but a perennial in warmer climates. While these flowers are a bit smaller than the common Hibiscus varieties used by landscapers, they produce a fruit/seed pod known as a “calyx”. Though, the leaves, flowers, and calyxes are all edible.
The other day my son and I picked about two pounds of calyxes off one of the plants. They are harvested after the bloom withers and falls off, though many of the ones I picked had withered blooms still inside it.
Then, we remove the seed pod and dry the calyx in a dehydrator. This does take some time so brew a cup of tea or coffee, put on some pleasant music and enjoy the process.
The seed pods are loaded with seed. I will dry the seed pods, extract the seeds, and plant for next year’s crop.
Once all the seed pods were removed, I gently and quickly rinsed the calyxes and dried them on paper towels before dehydrating them. I used the lowest setting on the dehydrator (95 F) and it took a couple of days for them to fully dehydrate. I store them in a glass jar, ready to make a delicious, nourishing tea anytime.
You can also use the fresh calyxes to make jelly.
Eleven pounds of calyx will equal about 1/2 pound of dried herb and one plant can produce 3-4 pounds. So, do the math…if I want an abundant supply of dried Hibiscus, I need a whole lot of plants! The seed pods are loaded with seeds, so I will have an over abundance of seed. In my research, I found this little tidbit: the seeds are considered excellent feed for chickens. Exciting!
Once I studied up on the benefits of Hibiscus sabdariffa, I was even more excited to have it growing on the homestead. Some of them include:
- Blood Pressure Management
- Lowering Cholesterol
- Protects Liver
- Anti-Cancer Properties
- Anti-Inflammatory and Antibacterial Properties
- Menstrual Pain
- Antidepressant Properties
- Aids Digestion
- Satiates Thirst
- Weight Loss
- Promotes healthy hair growth
- Supports healthy skin and a clear complexion
- Remove excess heat from the body
- Supports proper function of the kidneys and the female reproductive system
- It is astringent, sweet, and cooling
People with low blood pressure and women who are pregnant may want to avoid Hibiscus.
This is a must to add to your edible landscape. It’s easy to grow and provides wonderful aesthetic and health benefits. There is so much to know about Hibiscus sabdariffa so I have provided links for further reading.