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
- Water, rum, and/or ice, as desired
- 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.
- 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)