Roselle a.k.a. Jamaican Sorrel or Florida Cranberry

Roselle is a shrubby tropical annual also known as red sorrel, Jamaican sorrel, sour-sour and Florida cranberry. Botanically named Hibiscus sabdariffa, it is a member of the Mallow family and has the classic five petals and funnel-shaped flowers typical to this family. The pale, creamy yellow petals are also edible, though they are not the part of the flower that is typically consumed. They fleshy, succulent calyx, which swells at the base of the flower after it blooms and surrounds the seed pod is the fruit that is harvested. It has a deep cranberry color and is used as a culinary ingredient, natural food dye and as a medicinal herb, specifically for heart health (The American Heart Association reports that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea a day can lower blood pressure by as much as 13.2 percent).  It’s 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.

Roselle is used raw, dried or juiced. The fruit's tart flavor usually requires a sweetener of some kind, and is successfully used similar to cranberries in recipes for jam, jellies, chutney and even wine. Dried Roselle is steeped for hibiscus tea or agua fresca. The tart juice creates a nice balance for sweet and creamy desserts like cheesecake, gelato or ice cream. The concentrated juice is deep crimson and can be used as a natural food coloring for icing, dough or cake batter.

Below we have shared a standard recipe for the traditional Jamaican Christmas drink using roselle (aka Jamacian Sorrel). Sorrel is the Jamaican word for hibiscus, and it grows abundantly on the island. Even though this drink is served on ice, this drink retains the flavors of the holiday season – cinnamon, all spice, fresh ginger. For those who wish, rum sends it over the edge for a truly relaxing holiday season.

Jamaican Sorrel Drink

For diluting:

  1. Water, rum, and/or ice, as desired
  2. Peel the orange and slice (or grate) the ginger. Add all ingredients to a pot, cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Then simmer for 30 minutes to extract all the spiced goodness. Cool and refrigerate overnight for strongest flavor.
  3. Strain, mix with ice, water and – if you’re feeling plucky – rum!


2 cups whole, dried sorrel (aka Roselle)
2 inches ginger, sliced in thin coins for mild flavor, or chopped/grated for stronger flavor.
The peel of 1 orange
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cups water
Sugar to taste (typically about 1 cup)

Cilantro Cashew Cream Sauce

Having ready made herb sauces and dips can help turn up your basic recipes and bring on the flavor. This creamy cashew sauce doesn't contain any dairy. I recommend using a high-speed blender for a smoother sauce. Drizzle over enchiladas, tacos, warm zucchini noodles or better yet use as a salad dressing for some extra zing! It’s also perfect for dipping raw veggies!

Be creative with you cashew cheese! You can add so many wonderful herbs to make it special:  parsley, basil, chives, cilantro, summer savory, mint, dill, rosemary, thyme



  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 garlic clove
  • pepper (to taste)


  1. Soak raw cashews in water for at least 1 hour, preferably 3 hours. Drain and rinse.  
  2. Add all ingredients into your high speed blender and blend for 30 to 60 seconds or until a smooth and creamy.

Makes about 2 cups. 

Planting a Refuge for Wildlife

“Chances are, you have never thought of your garden – indeed, of all the space on your property – as a wildlife preserve that represents the last chance we have for sustaining plants and animals that were once common throughout the U.S. But that is exactly the role our suburban landscapes are playing and will play even more into the near future.” – Douglas W. Tallamy.


I do not usually begin newspaper articles with quotes, but this one by Doug Tallamy from "Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants," says what I want to say better than any words I can conjure. We used this quote to introduce how important our Florida yards can be for wildlife when we revised the Florida Wildlife Commission’s publication, Planting a Refuge for Wildlife.  

Many Tallahassee neighborhoods are blessed with a rich canopy of tall native trees – pines, oaks, wild cherries, hickories and sweetgums. However, the remaining aspects of the landscape (small trees, shrubs, groundcovers and lawn) in most neighborhoods are made up primarily of plants that are native to Asia and other distant parts of the world.

Research has shown that non-native plants have considerably less value to wildlife than native plants, mainly because they have not evolved with our native insects which cannot digest the protein of foreign plants. Since insects are the base of the food chain, it is important to include native plantings in your yard.

In our yard, which we purchased over 25 years ago we have converted slowly over the years to a mostly native yard by doing three things. First, we removed invasive non-native plants such as nandina, female podocarpus, Oregon grape, coral ardisia and others.

This is ongoing because neighboring yards harbor berries which are spread by birds and through stormwater run-off. We remove seedlings of ligustrum, Chinese privet, camphor, Chinese tallow and others when they are young since they pull up quite easily. We patrol the woodland borders and hedges periodically and pluck the seedlings from the ground.

Secondly, we increase the percentage of native plants in our yard every year. This is easily done by even planting just one native plant per year! We tuck them in between the lovely non-native plants that were already here when we moved in – camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas and a Japanese magnolia. The border between our yard and a neighbor is a mix of large white blooming sasanqua camellias and native plants – agarista, needle palm, Florida anise, wild azalea, American beautyberry, witch-hazel and silverbell – all planted over the 25 year period.

Finally, we removed some of the lawn in a sunny area to include a very productive pollinator garden. It is quite colorful and provides nectar and habitat for honeybees, native bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects, and hummingbirds as well as forage for caterpillars.  This is a good spot for some great non-native flowering plants too like Mexican sunflower, African blue basil and porterweed which supplement our base of natives – purple coneflower, horsemint, dwarf ironweed, asters, salt and pepper bush, Heliopsis and other wildflowers.

Greatly influenced by Doug Tallamy’s book, fellow Audubon member and friend Rob Williams has been converting his Foxcroft yard from mostly non-native to mostly native plants over the years. He has taken his passion one step further. There is a 7.98 acre unmanaged wetland preserve behind his house.

Unfortunately, like so many other green spaces in town, this forest had been taken over by invasive plants beneath the canopy of large native trees. He has made it his mission to remove these invasive plants, thus making room for the natural regeneration of native species and improving wildlife habitat in the preserve and in his yard. He also gets good exercise while working on this project. You can tour his yard on the Audubon Wildlife Friendly Yard Tour in February.

Improving your yard for wildlife can be a fun family project. Get started today by planting a native plant or removing an invasive plant from your yard.