Tonielle Christensen Land & Nature Stewardship, Plant Nursery Leave a Comment



Common Name:  Rosella, Jamaican Sorrel, Red Sorrel, Jamaican Sorrel, Sour-Sour and Florida Cranberry.

Latin Name:  Hibiscus sabdariffa.

Origin:  West Africa.

Description (what it looks like):  An attractive annual bushy shrub growing to 2-2.5m high and 1m wide.  A relative of the hibiscus family.  The leaves are arranged alternately on the stems, between 8-15cm long.  The white to pale yellow flowers are 8–10 cm in diameter, with a dark red spot at the base of each petal.

Uses (function):  Edible leaves for chickens.  Great for seed saving.  Attracts birds and bees.  Stem is cultivated for the production of bast fibre {rosella hemp} (a substitute for jute in the making burlap).  Folk medicine.  Edible leaves, flowers and seeds.  Grow as a garden border, or decorative backdrop to a fence.

Nutritional value:  Rosella flowers contain 260-280 mg of vitamin C, vitamin D, B1 and B2 in each 100 grams.  Rosella tea itself contains very high calcium, approximately 486 mg per 100 grams.  It also contains Magnesium, Omega 3, Vitamin A, Iron, Potassium, Beta Carotene and Essential Acids.  In traditional medicine, rosella is known to increase stamina and endurance, help with detoxification (neutralizing poison) as well as lowering blood pressure, blood sugar levels, uric acid and cholesterol in the body.  Helps to treat a cough, sore throat and canker sores, yet can also soothe a migraine.  Ex-smokers benefit from drinking rosella tea, as it can reduce the negative impact of nicotine and reduce dependence on drugs.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  Plant hibiscus seeds in a pot at the same time as you would tomatoes.  Wait until the seedlings are 8-10cm high, then plant out in the garden.  Space 90cm apart.  Keep free of weeds, mulched and water regularly.  Flowers takes about 6 months to turn into a fleshy, bright red fruit.  The first harvest is usually underwhelming, but this plant will produce a more prolific harvest after its second flowering in Autumn.  Simply snip the plumpest fruit straight off the bush.

Best time to grow:  Plant seedlings out in spring or summer.

Soil:  Rich, fertile soil, well-draining.  Neutral to alkaline pH.

Sun:  Full sun.

Water:  Keep moist.

How to eat it:  Delicious when tossed into fruit salads, used to garnish ice cream, thrown into tart and pie fillings, and blended into jams and jellies.  This nutritious plant even makes up a popular side dish when served with ground peanuts in regions of Africa.  Both the flowers and fruit are used to give colour and flavour to jams, fruit punches, cordials, syrups, fruit teas, wine, sauces and desserts.  Rosella leaves can be eaten as a side dish or salad; eaten raw or cooked as a spicy version of spinach, with a rhubarb-like flavour (also known as red sorrel).  Rosella are often found in shops, preserved whole in syrup or liquid, as a decorative and flavouring additive for cocktails, white wine or champagne.  The seeds may be roasted and ground into flour, or fermented into Sudanese meat substitute 'furundu'.


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