Hibiscus refers to a large genus of 200 to 220 species of flowering plants belonging to the mallow family. Members of this family include cocoa, cotton, okra, baobab, and durian.
Hibiscus is grown for its strong fibers in its bark. The fibers are obtained by letting the stripped bark sit in the sea to let the organic matter rot away. The fiber can be used to make grass skirts in Polynesia, make wigs, and burlap in place of jute. The leaves are eaten like spinach in savoury dishes. While the flowers, particularly that of Roselle – one of many species of hibiscus – is specially cultivated for its edible external portion of its flowers. The external portion of the flower is called the calyx. It is the maroon coloured, rubbery base of the blossom, available in the market fresh and dried. The tart flavour of roselle calyces requires a sweetener to balance out the flavours to make jams and preserves, wine, or steeped whole to make tea. The tart juices can also be used to cut the richness in sweet and creamy desserts like cheesecake and ice-cream, and a concentrated juice makes a natural food dye. Roselle is also prized for its effects to reduce the absorption of alcohol, as a hangover remedy, a diuretic, and a mild laxative.