It all began last month, when I noticed that the New York Times featured a recipe by Nigerian food stylist and writer, Yewande Komolafe for Hibiscus-Spiraled Ginger Cookies. Hibiscus? Spiraled? I was intrigued to learn that the ruby red bulbs, that I as a Caribbean person know as “sorrel” and associate with tangy beverages and teas, could make an appearance as a key ingredient in a shortbread cookie. I would soon learn that the tangy flavor of my all time favorite spicy Christmas beverage had been ranked as one of Whole Food’s Top Ten Food Trends for 2022.
Hibiscus sabdariffa, otherwise known as agua de Jamaica, Florida cranberry, Roselle, or Sorrel, as it is called in the Caribbean, dates back to 4000 BC in Sudan. The calyx of the hibiscus plant and the key ingredient used in food and drinks is high in vitamin C and other antioxidants such as anthocyanins. Other parts of the plant that can be used include the seeds, leaves, fruits and roots.
Here are some of the places that you can expect to encounter the trendy flavor of hibiscus or sorrel in the coming year:
Most of us are familiar with the tartness and distinct hue of hibiscus teas, juices or Mexican aguas frescas, but this year beverage makers will expand their bright red horizons with ciders, sodas and flavored waters, as more consumers gain familiarity with African infusions such as Nigerian zobo or Egyptian Karkadeh. Whole Foods lists Golden State Cider Jamaica made with tropical hibiscus flowers, Whole Foods Market Organic Orange Hibiscus Italian Soda (coming 2022) and Ruby Hibiscus Unsweetened Water as some of its top choices of beverages for 2022.
In her cookbook, entitled Hibiscus, Nigerian Chef, Lopè Ariyo reveals how to make the prize-winning Hibiscus Chicken that lead to her collection of hibiscus influenced recipes; the hibiscus sauce is reportedly what gives her chicken dish its signature flavor. Alternatively, salmon pairs wonderfully with a homemade garlicky sorrel sauce and hibiscus leaves or hibiscus flowers that have been left behind after steeping them for tea can also help to give salads a tangy kick.
Desserts and Sweet Treats
Restaurants have even gotten creative with the flavor of sorrel or hibiscus, with Rice milk hibiscus soft serve ice cream being served at FieldTrip restaurant in Harlem New York and Hibiscus Cheesecake stealing the show on the menu at Matthew Kenney’s Vegan Restaurant ‘Adesse’ at Selfridges in London. Hibiscus spiraled ginger cookies, like those featured in the New York Times, are more frequently appearing in home recipes and can be made by finely ground dried hibiscus. Hibiscus flavored Mexican-style ice pops or YoBucha Strawberry Hibiscus Kombucha Yogurt are hibiscus sweet treats that can be enjoyed at home.
Relishes and Spreads
Hibiscus frequently finds its way into jams and jellies as well as marmalades, sauces and pickles. Hibiscus chutney, made with peppers and apple cider vinegar, is a great addition to a cheese plate or can make for a zesty cranberry sauce alternative at a holiday table. Senegalese, Bacary Diatta makes Hibiscus Sabdariffa Kassumay fruit spreads, created by using flowers cultivated in his homeland of Senegal, featuring hibiscus mixed with ginger, mango, moringa, blueberries and other combined flavors.
Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods
The demand for nutraceuticals and functional foods and drinks that contain health benefits is on the rise. Vital Proteins Tropical Hibiscus Beauty Collagen is but one of a variety of hibiscus-based nutraceuticals that are available over the counter and can help improve the health of hair, skin and nails. The hibiscus fruit and its extracts have also been used as a remedy in a wide range of ailments from toothaches and urinary tract infections to colds, hangovers, in the treatment of high blood pressure, circulatory disorders, loss of appetite, stomach irritation, heart and nerve diseases, upper respiratory tract pain and swelling (inflammation), fluid retention, for dissolving phlegm and as a diuretic.
Healthy, versatile, beautiful and delicious— not a bad choice for a trend-setter for 2022.