The roselle is a plant native to the Caribbean that is cultivated for bast fibers and for food coloring. Read our guide to the Jamaican sorrel drink for more facts & information…
The Senegalese use the leaves of the plant as a spicy substitute for spinach. In Jamaica the sepals of the plant are used to brew a variety of different beverages including tea and Christmas punch. As an herbal remedy the plant has been used as a treatment for hypertension, constipation, cardiac problems, nerve disorders and cancer.
Preparing Sorrel Beverages
The dried calyces and sepals from the flower of the plant are used to brew tea. Although many believe that tea is made from the flowers, the petals are not used. The tea is prepared by boiling the plant in water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the water turns red. Sugar is added to sweeten the tea and it is usually served chilled. The roselle plant is a member of the hibiscus family and the tea has a flowery flavor. Other Caribbean and Central American nations brew the tea in a similar fashion and it is enjoyed throughout the region. In some areas the tea is mixed with mint or mentholated candy and fruit flavors.
Jamaican Sorrel Christmas Punch
Wash one pound of sorrel thoroughly and place in a stainless steel container. Scrape, wash and grate two to four ounces of ginger root and add it to the sorrel. Pour two quarts of boiling water over the sorrel ginger mixture and allow to stand for four to six hours. Strain the mixture and add sugar to taste. If the punch is for adults either rum or wine may be added. Some recipes call for both rum and wine. The punch should be served well chilled and may be garnished with fresh mint or lime slices. Some Jamaicans also add allspice and cloves to the punch for additional flavor.
Jamaican Sorrel as an Herbal Remedy
Jamaican sorrel is obtained from the Rosella plant which is also known as hibiscus sabdariffa. It is used in folk and herbal medicine to treat colds, as a general digestive aid, a fever reducer and to promote kidney function. It is believed to reduce high blood pressure and the plant is known to be high in antioxidants. In areas outside Jamaica the flower petals of the plant are used to brew an herbal tea, but Jamaicans use the calyces and sepals to make a tea which is commonly served chilled, not served hot. The leaves, petals and other parts of the plant are edible and the stem is commonly used to make bast fiber for burlap.
Jamaican sorrel is the basis for many island drinks and is used throughout most of the Caribbean. In Central America and much of the Caribbean, the rosella plant is called the Jamaica plant. In addition to its use as tea or beverage, it has applications as an herbal remedy and although native to Jamaica can be found growing throughout Central America, the Caribbean islands and parts of Africa.