I only recently discovered the lovely roselle plant (botanically, it’s hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Jamaican Sorrel) when my husband and I stopped at the UF/IFAS Leon Extension demonstration garden during the recent 12th Annual Farm Tour.
While there, volunteers gave us a bunch of roselle cuttings and seeds. They also had a jug of a drink made from the red velvet petals of the plant. It was delicious, with a refreshing cranberry tartness. Not only that — I’ve read that it has lots of health benefits.
Many parts of the plant, including the seeds, leaves, fruits, and roots, are used medicinally or in foods, according to the extension service. On its website, Native Nurseries notes that it’s helpful for heart health, possibly lowering blood pressure.
The nursery site also tells us that: “The roselle plant has been called a good source of calcium, niacin, riboflavin, iron, antioxidants and vitamin C. It has been used to treat colds, hypertension, poor circulation and even for hangover relief.”
I had to try to make this concoction. I used the recipe from the extension service for this drink. I had to freelance a little — using Mandarin oranges instead of pineapple because that’s all I had — but I’ll be sure to get the pineapples next time. I also used fewer petals but it was still lip-puckery good. I also added a lot of ice.
The plants are harvested in October and November so may be hard to find. I suggest you contact the horticulture agents at the extension service — Mark Tancig and Rachel Mathes — for more information at 850-606-5200 .
The roselle plants will also be back at Native Nurseries (1661 Centerville Rd.; 850-386-8882. You can buy the seeds there now to plant in April or May and August (you have to ask for the seeds if you buy them now because they’re not on display). You can also order them online.
Many thanks to Tallahassee Table reader Lily Wells for sending me this link on my Facebook page about growing the roselle plant from cuttings: curiousgardener.com/2011/06/30/growing-roselle-from-cuttings/
If you must wait, I hope you’ll save this recipe.
About 3 cups fresh or frozen roselle calyxes (outside petals), seeds removed. (I used 1 1/2 cups and it was plenty strong)
Add any of these:
Large 2-inch slice of fresh pineapple peeled and cubed (no need to core it) or a small can of pineapple in its own juice.
1 piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced in thin coins for flavor or chopped/grated for stronger flavor. In a pinch use ginger spice (what I did)
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange sliced with rind
3-5 cloves (I used the powder)
Bring ingredients to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Strain through cheesecloth or coffee filter. The drink will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or freeze in one-cup measurements. It makes about a dozen cups.
To make tea, add 6 cups brewed tea (decaf or regular), 3/8 cup sugar, maple syrup or sugar-free sweetener to taste, 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional) to the roselle drink.