Botanical Name: Hibiscus sabdariffa
Common Names: Roselle, Red Sorrel, Pacific Sorrel, Jamaican Tea, Maple-Leaf Hibiscus
Origin: West Africa and Sri Lanka but was introduced by Indonesian fisherman to Australia thousands of years ago and has naturalised here.
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.
Cultivation: 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. A sub-tropical plant, Rosella is frost sensitive and needs to be re-planted each year.
Propagation: Rosella grows easily from seed. Allow a few calyxes to remain unharvested each year and then save the seeds before the first winter frosts for future planting. Sow in early spring into warm soil to germinate. Cover the seeds with fine soil to a depth of 12 mm. Plants should be spaced approximately 50 cm apart and 6 plants is ideal for most families. Plants usually begin to crop within 3 months of planting and cropping continues for 6 months until the first frost. The fruit is ready to pick about 3 weeks after flowering when the fleshy red calyxes have enlarged to 3 cm.
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.