I am convinced that more people should grow Roselle. For that matter, a lot more people should know what it is! Roselle is a tropical hibiscus, which produces edible calyxes (outer seed pods). In Spanish people call it Jamaica, pronounced Hah-mike-ah, and it is extremely popular in Latin America. I’ve also heard it called Florida Cranberry and Wild Hibiscus.
Roselle has many uses.
Most everything I’ve done with it, has been using the calyxes.
Most people use Roselle to make a delicious red, fruity beverage, which served cold, in Mexico is called agua de Jamaica (translated Jamaica drink). This very same drink makes for a hearty, fruity hot tea for cold days. You may have tried it, under the name of Red Zinger tea. I understand that it’s rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. It’s refreshing, and is purported to share some of the same health benefits as cranberry juice, which, by the way, is the best comparison I can give for its flavor. If for no other reason than its use for drinks, I believe more people should grow Roselle. But there’s more…
Roselle leaves have a lemony flavor and they can be used to make a lemon flavored tea. They can be cut up into stir fries, both as a seasoning and as an extra vegetable. I’ve heard that there’s an African tribe which cooks the leaves much like spinach. It’s going to take me a couple more years to explore all these options!
Back to the calyxes…
The drink is made by boiling the calyxes.
One can use this same liquid to make Roselle jelly, which is to die for! Honest, I can’t imagine anyone not liking this!
Don’t throw out the calyxes after boiling them for tea. With a little sweetener they can be eaten like fruit. This is a welcome addition to our diet, as in our area fruit is so hard to grow. I suspect with a little lemon juice and sweetener one could even use them to make an imitation rhubarb pie.
To read a bit more on this plant, see: Wild Hibiscus: Wonder Plant
More People Should Grow Roselle Because it’s So Easy To Grow.
If you can grow okra, you can probably grow Roselle. The plants require no staking. They are extremely heat and drought resistant. In fact, it would be accurate to state that Roselle needs heat. The seeds are easy to handle and germinate readily… with a bit of heat. One could easily start a couple plants, the same way as tomatoes and transplant them into the garden at the same time as tomatoes. One single plant would probably supply enough calyxes to make over a dozen pots of Roselle tea.
It’s easy to save Roselle seed.
One doesn’t have to sacrifice a single calyx in order to save seed. Just leave some calyxes on the plant until the inner pod (inside the calyx) begins to brown. Each pod will supply around 2 dozen seeds. The outer pod (calyx) will still be usable for tea.
Read about others’ experience of growing Roselle in this threat on Green Country Seed Savers
There are a number of strains of Roselle in the tropics, but folk in North America would do well to grow a strain which is known to perform at our latitude. Others may not flower in time to produce before frost. The strain which I grow is called Thai Red, and I purchased it from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
Go ahead, try Roselle!