DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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11 February 2016

The humble rosella

If you're in a warm climate, rosellas are a very useful and unusual plant to grow in the backyard. They're a wild hibiscus, grown in many places including Australia, particularly in the north, Africa, south east Asia, West Indies, Mexico and the US, I'm note sure about the European countries.  Let me know in the comments if you're growing it. 

We haven't grown rosellas for a couple of years but there was a time when they were regulars in our garden and I made jam and drinks with them every year.  It's an easy plant to grow if you have the right climate for it so that's why it's back in our garden; we want to grow simple plants that are useful in the kitchen. It takes about six months of frost-free warm weather to grow them to maturity. The red sepals, seeds and green leaves are all edible. Red Zinger tea contains rosellas, it's what gives that tea its red colouring. There are several health claims made for rosellas but I'll leave that for you to research because I don't know which claims are true.


This bowl is our first harvest this year.  When the plants are still quite small, they flower and then set fruit. You harvest that small early crop, tip prune the plant at the same time and let them set about producing a bigger crop for late summer, early autumn.  So that means that for this year, it's too late to plant these in Australia.  The red sepals from this small crop can be dried and used to make tea but I've frozen this lot and they will be added to the main crop later in the year.


The fruit is ready to pick when it's bright red and plump. When we harvest our main crop later in the year, I'll take photos and do another post on how to process them and what to make with them.


The rosellas above are damaged and will be dried out and used for seeds.  You can see from the little rosella (above) sprouting from its capsule that they're good growers, but all depends on temperate and climate.


These are some of the seeds I've collected from the rosellas above. There aren't many but I'll take some on my book tour so if you want to try growing it, ask me if I have any left. Otherwise you can buy them here and here.

Rosella is one of those crops that fits in well in a simple kitchen. It's easy to grow from seed from your previous crop, and it has multi-purposes in the kitchen. And if you're a gardener in an area that has hot summers, it will soon become one of your go-to plants for jam and drinks.

Here are recipes for rosella jam, tea and cordial from Frances at Green Harvest. Do you have any rosella recipes to share?

25 comments:

  1. I have grown hibiscus for many years. Our climate here is considered too cold for them, and I would never have even started, but one small plant came free in a seed order, so I planted it on the west side, up against the house, and wished it luck! It dies back completely every winter, but it is persistent! It grows bigger and better every year, probably the best bargain of my gardening career, and free to boot!

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  2. Great info Rhonda! I haven't harvested any yet, but I do see tiny flowers on the three plants in my garden, so they must be ready soon. I found it difficult to grow them the first time as I didn't water them enough, then last year I had so many I got tired of picking and processing them! I particularly like to dry them for tea. I wrote about them on my blog back here http://eight-acres.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/weird-vegetables-in-my-sub-tropical.html

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  3. In Trinidad and Tobago this is called sorrel. Its a staple (along with ginger beer) at Christmas. The red sepals are boiled with cloves and cinnamon and sweetened for a delicious drink. Sorrel jam. Yum.
    I didn't know the leaves were edible. We never used them. Unfortunately, it's rarely exported in its fresh state so I've had to resort to using dried as I now live in North America. Thanks for the reminiscence.

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  4. I'm going to look for these seeds in the U. S. and thanks so much for the post. I love your blog.
    Rita

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  5. Eugene, Oregon.....
    love THE BEAUTIFUL PINK, FLORAL FRAMES OF YOUR GLASSES AND A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE OF YOU....
    tHANKS FOR YOUR WONDERFULINSPIRING WEB SITE. LOOK FORWARD TO IT EACH WED.....
    HAPPY VALENTINES DAY.........JOYCE

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  6. I planted one for the first time last year, and got a handful of small fruits. I'm told it's too cold here for them (N. Carolina, U.S.), so I took half a dozen cuttings in the fall, to see if I could get a head start in the spring, and 2 of the cuttings are still hanging in there. I also saved seed, & may try starting a few more. Thank you for sharing recipes.

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  7. Until I read this post, I had never heard of this plant. Thanks for the info! Unfortunately, we don't have six frost-free months in Maine ;)

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  8. I heard hibiscus grows in our Southern United States. I have never heard of anyone cooking with them.
    Quite a few people used rose hip for different things.

    Coffee is on

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  9. I remember helping mum make Rosella jam back in the 1950s, Rhonda. From memory they were a little prickly to work with but I may be wrong as it was a long time ago. The jam was nice though. We have never grown them here.

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    1. yes Chel, they are a bit prickly. You have to separate the seed pod from the outside sepals and the seed pod casing is quite hard.

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  10. I grow them to dry for tea, but they take up quite a bit of space for quite a while so i didnt grow them agian this year. Funny the one growing out of the top - I have never seen that. Thanks for the tip on tip pruning after the first flush of fruit.

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  11. Hi Rhonda,
    I grew up in country NSW and remember my mum making Rosella jam and cordial every year, brought back so many lovely memories...Thank you.
    Take care
    Cheers
    Jane

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  12. Hi Rhonda,
    In south India we call the plant gongura and use the leaves to make a delicious spicy chutney.We also cook it with lentils (dal),chicken and fish.
    I love your blog and make my own apple cider vinegar and ginger beer from your recipes.Thank you for sharing!

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  13. What an unusual fruit, and what a glorious colour they are!

    I wouldn't have a hope in hell of growing them here, even in the polytunnel I suspect. We are lucky if we get a couple of months of warmth and sunshine let alone six. We even have late frosts so that would cut the possibilities down even further :-(

    Oh well it's the differences in climates and countries that make this wonderful world so diverse.

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  14. I have never heard of Rosella, but it is such a pretty little fruit! Love the rich color.

    I live in the US and was so excited when I got home yesterday to find that my copy of Down to Earth had arrived!!! The stars must have been aligned because it was the one night this week where the rest of my family was otherwise occupied and I got to spend several luxurious hours reading. Rhonda, I LOVE your writing and am so inspired by your authenticity. Love reading your blog and am loving your book as well. Thanks for all that you do.

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  15. Rhonda, In Jamaica it is traditional to serve sorrel during the Christmas season using fresh or dried sepals. Flavored with sugar or honey, cloves, cinnamon and crushed ginger it is boiled, steeped, strained and chilled before serving. White rum is often added for an additional kick. Here is a good video from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4GX9SBmFRU

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  16. What a fascinating plant! Really interesting post but it will have to be a plant I just read about we don't have six months of frost free weather!

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  17. I was so pleased to read this post. I had never heard of rosellas and it is fascinating. I'm trying to work out if we have the 6 months frost free to try them in my garden. THank you Rhonda.

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  18. Wondering if this is the same as cranberry hibiscus? Looks similar....

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    1. I don't know Helena. I doubt it because the rosella flower is yellow.

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  19. I harvested my first small batch last week and made four bottles of jam.I would like a good rosella tea recipe which I think would be nice to have to drink for a change. I have grown them every year since I retired three years ago and use my own seeds now as well. They grow very well in Mackay. So nice to have bottles of the jam to gift to frriends as well.

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  20. How do you tell the difference between the flower and the fruit?

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  21. how interesting! I wonder if they grow down here? I suspect not seeing as I have never heard of them. They look beautiful though! You guys have such a different climate then we do!

    xx

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  22. I just wanted to say, I love your blog. I need to check out some of your recipes when I have more time to sit and read. My mother in law grows Rosellas and makes her own jam. We used to help her get the fruit ready...quite time consuming but well worth the effort. So yummy.

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Thank you for your comment today. I love reading your opinions and thoughts. We have built up a wonderfully diverse community here that I'm very proud to be a part of.

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