In search of African "Green Hibiscus"
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Patricia Young
Posted on: April 7, 2001

I am trying to track down an herb used in East African (Senegal) cooking. I was told it is in the hibiscus family. It has green flowers rather than regular red flowers. The leaves of this "green hibiscus" are used dried or fresh and have a taste similiar to sour greens such as turnip greens.

We are not familiar with this variety of hibiscus. According to Stephen Facciola’s book, "Cornucopia," there are several species of Hibiscus that are grown in Africa as edible greens. They are:

False roselle (Hibiscus acetosella): "Young leaves and shoots are eaten raw, steamed, or in soups and stews. They may be cooked with other foods to give them a sour, sorrel-like flavor."

Fringed hibiscus (Hibiscus schizopetalus): "The flowers are edible. East Tropical Africa."

Mankin-aoi (Hibiscus surattensis): "Acid leaves are eaten raw in salads, cooked as a potherb, put in curries, or used to flavor meat and fish. The twigs are also used as greens."

It is possible your "green hibiscus" is one of the above species or one of other possible species which no doubt are grown and used in Africa.

Richters carries the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), also known as Jamaican or Indian sorrel, which can be used as an edible potherb. The acid leaves are eaten in salads and curries. Because the other Hibiscus species mentioned above are not readily available to North American gardeners, you may want to try roselle as a substitute.

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