Hibiscus Lemonade

Roselle Hibiscus usually pop up at farmers’ markets around the Bay Area in the fall – both as starter plants that make a pretty and easy annual shrub for your yard, and as the calyxes, or seed pods, ready to be cooked for tea or turned into jelly. You can also find seeds at southernexposure.com.
April 01, 2015



Pick the ripe seed pods when they are red, fleshy and roughly 1.5 inch long – they will come off easily and look more substantial when ready for harvest.

Snap the outer red fleshy calyx off the central seed core, composting the cores. Thoroughly soak and rinse the calyxes, then set them on a rack to dry; a fan will help speed the process. Once the calyxes are visibly dry, place them on dehydrating racks lined with parchment paper in your oven or dehydrator. Set the dehydrator to 135 degrees (or a fruit setting) and dehydrate for about 12 hours, checking periodically. They will smell of floral cranberries and be crispy but slightly pliable when done.


Boil 2 cups loosely packed dried or fresh whole calyxes in 2 ½ cups of water for 15 to 20 minutes (longer for dried calyxes). The flowers will cook down to an almost jelly-like consistency and create a dark red syrup. Turn off the heat, then pour the mixture into a fine mesh strainer set over a glass measuring cup or mason jar. Mash the calyxes thoroughly to remove all the liquid, discarding the solids. Add the turbinado sugar to the hot syrup, whisking to dissolve. Set aside to cool, or add ice to speed up the process.

Juice the lemons and/or limes and pour into a pitcher or half-gallon container. Add the roselle syrup to the juice, then top off the container with roughly 5 ½ cups of cold water.

Serve over ice garnished with a lemon or lime wedge. For a Cinco de Mayo treat, add a shot of quality reposado tequila to each glass of hibiscus lemonade. Serves 6 to 8.

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  • 2 cups loosely packed dried or fresh whole roselle hibiscus calyxes
  • ½ cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 ½ cups lemon and/or lime juice (about 4 lemons or limes)
  • Reposado tequila (optional; to taste)
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