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Productive Plant – Rosella

by Debbie Bassingthwaighte

Botanical Name:  Hibiscus sabdariffa

Common Names:  Roselle, Red Sorrel, Pacific Sorrel, Jamaican Tea, Maple-Leaf Hibiscus

Description:  Rosella is an attractive annual shrub to 1.5 m high with large, deeply lobed leaves, distinctive red stems and attractive yellow-pink hibiscus-like flowers with a dark red centre.  Each flower has a fleshy, deep red calyx that enlarges to 3 cm when the flower fades and the enclosed seed pod matures.   Rosella is easy to grow and is adapted to a range of conditions.  It has few pests and diseases and is hardy and productive in most soil types, but flourishes with plenty of water in rich, well-drained, mulched soil.  

Culinary Uses:  The leaves, flower petals, red calyxes and seeds of the Rosella are all edible.  The red calyxes have a pleasant tart-sweet flavour and are useful in jams, cordials, syrups, sauces, jellies, salads and fruit teas.  The seeds can be roasted and ground into flour, and the young leaves (sometimes known as red sorrel) have a lemon flavour and are delicious steamed or added to a stir-fry.  Perhaps the most popular use in Queensland is to make Rosella Jam with the tasty calyxes.  The dried calyxes also make a delicious tea that is bright red and very similar to rose-hip tea in flavour.  2 or 3 dried pieces per cup is all that is needed.

Nutrition:  Rosella calyxes are high in vitamin C.  

Other Uses:  Rosella can be used as a fast-growing annual windbreak in the summer garden and to help shade more delicate plants from the hot sun.