Friday, 19 February 2010


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

It's summer, and one of my favourite things to grow here in summer is the Rosella, or Malvacea – Hibiscus sabdariffa.

The rosella is an attractive bush with dark green sparse foliage and beige to yellow flowers with a scarlet throat. The woody stems of the bushes are scarlet also. It is native to West Africa and prefers a warm climate.

Plant the seeds around March in the tropics, so long as it’s not raining so much that the seeds will wash away! In sub-tropical and temperate areas, plant at the beginning of the warm season. Sow at least 50cm apart as the bushes reach up to 2 metres in height.

Rosella leaves, also known as Red Sorrel are edible and useful in salads, stir-fries or steamed.

Abundant hibiscus flowers attract beneficial insects to your garden. After the petals fall away, pick the rosella fruit for use in the following recipes before the seedpod inside turns brown. You will get a few harvests of rosellas during each season. Harvest when the calyxes are plump and juicy to get the best results in your cooking.

Rosella Cordial
rosellas (whole)
citric acid

Harvest a large quantity of rosellas. Wash and two-thirds fill a saucepan with the fruit. Cover these intact rosellas with water and bring to the boil. Simmer until soft and the red colour has faded from the calyx. Strain the red liquid and throw away all fruit and seeds etc. For every cup of this red liquid add a cup of sugar (a litre of liquid = a kilo of sugar).

Heat gently until all sugar is dissolved, stirring continually. Take saucepan off the heat source and add the strained juice of lemons (approx. 3 lemons to a litre of syrup). Stir in two tablespoons of citric acid (optional, improves keeping quality). Pour into clean, dry bottles and seal while hot. This keeps for a long time in the fridge, and may be stored in the pantry. This cordial makes a delicious pink drink enjoyed by adults and children alike. We mix with soda water for birthday parties, freeze in ice-block moulds, or drink as a refreshing cold drink in summer. Recipe originally from Green Harvest.

Rosella Jam
1kg rosella husks
1 litre water
2kg sugar (I use organic raw sugar)
or any 1:1:2 ratio of these three ingredients

Remove husks from rosellas and discard seeds etc. This is time-consuming and can be a little prickly, but worth the effort! Weigh the husks. Boil these with an equal amount of water for about 10 minutes. They should be very soft. Add the sugar slowly over a medium heat and stir well. Boil for around 20 minutes. Test the jam on a cold saucer – can place into freezer to cool. When it is cool, it shouldn’t run off the saucer when tipped up. Pour into sterilised jars, seal and label. This keeps well and is like no other jam available - sweet, tangy, perfect texture and a deep red colour.

Rosella Tea
Remove the outer fleshy husks of each rosella. Discard seedpod and stem. Dry in a slow oven or dehydrator until fully dried. Store in an airtight jar. Rosellas are the main ingredient in the popular red zinger teas and taste wonderful with a little dried or fresh lemon grass. This tea keeps for a long time without losing colour or flavour and is a great source of Vitamin C.