Is it Safe, the Hibiscus edition
November 26, 2011 3:45 AM   Subscribe

I found a large bag of dried hibiscus while cleaning out the back of my pantry... and it must be around four or even five years old. Any problem using it?

It's just plain dried hibiscus, something like this, in a similar plastic bag – except it was closed with a twist tie, and came originally from a vendor, not a commercial company. I threw out a ton of other old stuff, but I'd rather not toss this if it's okay. Is it okay? (No critters were found in the examination of this suspect item.)
posted by taz to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does it still have an aroma? If so, and you have doubts about its edibility, perhaps a potpourri of some sort might still give it another life?
posted by infini at 3:55 AM on November 26, 2011

It does, but it's fairly faint. (I can't remember if it used to be stronger when I was buying it regularly.)
posted by taz at 3:58 AM on November 26, 2011

Here's my suggestion then - and I'd do this myself - if its a tea, make a cup and check it out. I doubt it would have gone bad in a "make you sick" kind of way but it may not have any flavour/aroma left worth keeping it around for. (Unless its pretty and you take the potpourri route)
posted by infini at 4:23 AM on November 26, 2011

Probably won't kill you, but will likely make for a weaker tea than when fresh. Another vote for potpourri.
posted by arcticseal at 4:59 AM on November 26, 2011

I have some I purchased in May of 2007 which is just fine still. It still makes great tea (still tastier than some prepackaged teabags of finely cut hibiscus which are of a more recent vintage.)
posted by SantosLHalper at 6:33 AM on November 26, 2011

Since its still in big hunks it will probably still be plenty strong, but if it isn't,

You could chuck it into vodka, the flavor of hibiscus is really soluble in ethanol and using weak stuff will if anything help you generate a delicious and not over strong tincture. Add about a gram of flower and a pinch of sugar for every 100 mL of booze and taste it regularly until desired strength.

Great for livening up classy cocktails, as a replacement for rum in baking, or just sipping the creation with impressed friends.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:29 AM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Incidentally, dried hibiscus flower is perfectly safe from microbial stuff unless it gets wet and stays wet for a while, then I suppose mold could maybe grow, but it would be quite stinky, slimy, and obvious. Any living thing that tried to grow vegetatively on it would immediately implode as the dried flower sucked the water out of it.

Its like how you never have to worry about anything growing on crystallized sugar.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:49 AM on November 26, 2011

Okay, thanks! That's sort of what I was worried about – some invisible evil. So, I just tried some in tea, and it was great, not weak at all, no odd taste. It seemed perfectly perfect.

... but if I don't show up tomorrow, you'll know what done it. :)

Thanks a lot, everyone!
posted by taz at 9:11 AM on November 26, 2011

You already have your answers, but for future reference: I just took a sniff of my extremely fresh/ high quality dried hibiscus brought over from southern Egypt's souqs a few weeks ago. It is almost odourless. Taste may be a better test.
posted by tavegyl at 10:16 AM on November 26, 2011

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