Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hibiscus sabdariffa, Rosella

Crimson red calyces of Rosella (the calyx is the outermost layer of the flower)Yellow Hibiscus like flower and maturing Rosella fruit

Having grown up eating Rosella jam, it was interesting to grow this annual vegetable or fruit plant again. The leaves are edible so it can be called a vegetable. It is just not quite hot enough to get a huge crop this far south as Rosella is really a tropical annual planted at the beginning of the wet season. Asian food expert Charmaine Solomon gives an interesting recipe for a Burmese sour soup (chin ye hin) in one of her books using the leaves which have a similar sharp tang as French sorrel. The fruit have a high vitamin C content and make great sauces, jams and jellies. Above all though, you have not lived until you have drunk Hibiscus Rum Punch especially after a game of cricket in Jamaica where it is known as Flor de Jamaica .What you have to do is pour boiling water over some fresh rosella combined with a couple of cups of sugar, a few cloves and a cinnamon stick. Allow this to sit for a few days and then add dark rum to taste and allow to brew for a couple more days before straining and serving ice cold.
While on the subject of Rosellas I can't not mention the feathered variety which is a welcome visitor to gardens on the east coast of Australia. If you have a wild bird table a pair will often come to visit and become quite tame. Their distinctive mellow bell like call 'klee-kleekee' is delightful.

Crimson Rosella , Platycercus elegans

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