On Trend: Hibiscus

Ruth Taylor's Strawberry Hibiscus Jam are available locally.

It’s safe to say that most of us have heard of hibiscus — a type of flowering plant native to warm, tropical and subtropical regions around the world — and maybe even grown it in our gardens. While there are over 200 varieties of hibiscus flower in the world, the most commonly cultivated type is Hibiscus sabdariffa, marked by its red stems and pink and red flowers.

In addition to being a great source of vitamin C, hibiscus flowers have a multitude of health benefits. They have been used to remedy various ailments over the years, from toothaches and urinary tract infections to lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

Mrs. Ruth makes award winning jam in her Apex kitchen.

In addition to its medicinal uses, the tart, earthy flavor and vibrant color of hibiscus have put it center stage in the culinary world. According to the 2022 Food and Beverage Flavor Trends report, hibiscus increased 24% on menu listings from the second fiscal quarter in 2018 to the same time in 2021 — with no signs of stopping! Hibiscus-flavored menu items are on the rise, including teas, ciders, ice cream, popcorn, and more.

Local Hibiscus Highlights:

  • Strawberry Hibiscus Popcorn, ellaspopcorn.com
  • Make some tea with dried hibiscus flowers, also known as Jamaica flower in markets. Find at Sassool and La Bonita in Cary, Compare Foods in Apex
  • Orange Peel & Hibiscus Dry Cider and Mango Hibiscus Cider, available at Bull City Ciderworks, Cary
  • Hibiscus Lemonade, LemonShark Poke in Cary

Ruth Taylor, the owner and chief jammer of Mrs. Ruth’s Jams in Apex, recently explored the trend herself as part of the Art in Bloom exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

“They approached me about creating a floral flavor for their 2021 and 2022 shows to sell in their gift shop,” said Taylor. “We selected hibiscus in 2021 as a way to enhance strawberries, as the slightly earthy flavor balances the sweetness of strawberries.”

Mrs. Ruth’s strawberry hibiscus jam can be used on toast, PB&Js, or whatever your hungry heart desires. All of her products can be found locally at La Farm Bakery, Peak Olive Oil, Bonafide Cafe, Donavan’s Dish, ELK Local Foods, or online at mrsruthsjams.com.

“We believe that no one should go hungry, and as a result we donate 10% of sales to local hunger relief,” said Taylor. “Our desire is to continue to spread more happiness and feed people, either directly through our jams or our donations.”


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