Native to the East Indies and introduced to Jamaica in the 18th century, this species of hibiscus is widely grown in many areas of Asia, Africa and America. Hibiscus is from the Greek ibiskos, a form of mallow, but this plant is known by a variety of names. Most gardeners call it annual hibiscus, but cooks refer to it as roselle and in the Caribbean and Mexico it is called red sorrel and jamaica. Throughout history many cultures in China, Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico have enjoyed this commonly used species of hibiscus for health, cooling, relaxation, ceremonies and celebrations.
Formerly grown as an annual hedge in the South, this sub-tropical flowering hibiscus is grown from seed and reaches 4 to 5 feet in a season. It is best grown in average soil with full sun and moderate water plus it must be kept weed-free.
This hibiscus is very ornamental with large lobed leaves and reddish stems plus a multitude of funnel-shaped yellow flowers with red calyxes that fade at the end of their one day bloom from August to October.
False roselle (Hibiscus acetosella) is also very ornamental with its burgundy tinted leaves and delicate pink flowers
Both are daylight sensitive and will not bloom until there is less than 11 hours of sunlight. They both also produce a very aggressive seedpod. Grown primarily for the calyx or flower base, they may be gathered a few days after the flower has wilted and should snap off easily. Remove the seedpod before drying or use fresh.
Although the calyx is the most commonly used part of the hibiscus, the whole plant is useful. The edible young leaves are used in salads or eaten as a vegetable and have an acid, rhubarb-like flavor. The stem bark yields a fine, silky, jute-like fiber called rosella hemp and is used for weaving sackcloth, twine and cord. The flowers make an edible garnish as well as being a source of dye and the calyx may be eaten fresh or dried. The tangy, fruity taste of the calyx adds a punch to salads as well as jams, curries, chutneys and a cranberry-like sauce. It is also lovely in sorbets, vinaigrettes and glazes. The simplest way to enjoy the calyx however, is brewed as a pot of tart tea or refreshing iced beverage. It produces a brilliant garnet color and can be used alone or blended with other herbals and is caffeine free. Regular consumption often lowers blood pressure, fights appetite and encourages weight loss. Finally, the seeds are eaten roasted or ground and made into an oil sauce
Roselle and rose hips are often combined
to produce a red color and tart flavor
that when sweetened with honey
may be served iced in summer and hot in winter
ROSELLE TEA COOKIES
Steep 1Tbs dried Roselle in 1/4 c boiling water for 10 minutes, strain and cool. Cream together 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c sugar until creamy then add 1 egg. Blend in 2 c flour and 2Tbs of the hibiscus tea. Crush 1tsp Roselle and sprinkle into batter with 1/2tsp baking powder and a dash of salt. Blend well. Form dough into a 2” x 12” log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Slice log into 1/4" slices, place on ungreased cookie sheet, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350 degrees for 10 mins.
Finely chop to produce 1c fresh roselle calyces, 1c cooking apple, 1c red onion and 1Tbs chili pepper. Cover all with 1c vinegar and add 1Tbs Worcestershire sauce, 1/2c raisins, 1tsp ground allspice and 1/8tsp ground cloves. Boil for 10 minutes than add 1c sugar (depends on taste and desired texture) and boil one hour stirring continuously. Cool completely, then use or refrigerate.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”