Hibiscus (from the Greek hibískos, meaning marshmallow) is a genus of annual or perennial flowering plants with several hundred species.
The hibiscus is part of the family Malvaceae. These are plants known since ancient times: they were cultivated in Egypt and Southeast Asia for their ornamental character, but also for their edible fruits.
Many species also have medicinal properties.
Imported into Europe in the twelfth century by the Moors of Spain, some species were then introduced to America in the seventeenth century by settlers.
South Korea and Malaysia have a national flower hibiscus, respectively Hibiscus syriacus, Althea and Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis, Rose hibiscus from China.
Hibiscus is valued for food and medicinal purposes.
The guinea specie (Hibiscus sabdariffa) native to West Africa produces shoots and young leaves that are eaten raw or cooked like vegetables.
The tea made of hibiscus flowers is known by many names in many countries around the world and is served both hot and cold. The beverage is well known for its red color, tartness and unique flavor. Additionally, it is highly nutritious because of its vitamin C content.
Its red flowers, dried and infused, are used for sauces and jams or for the preparation of bissap, infusion and syrup, producing a red beverage, fresh and very sweet drunk (sometimes prepared with mint) in West Africa.
Other than sweet preparations, hibiscus flower is also used in spice mixes for meats, stews, salads, seafood seasoning and many others.
Dried hibiscus is considered a delicacy in Mexico. It can also be candied and used as a garnish.