What Is Jamaican Sorrel?

Jamaican sorrel (red sorrel, Florida cranberry, or roselle) is not a true sorrel. It was introduced to Jamaica from west Asia in the 18th century. Roselle is the fleshy young calyces (the outer floral envelope) surrounding the immature fruits. It also comes in dried form.  Jamaican sorrel is very acidic and resembles cranberry in color and acidity.

Culinary Uses of Jamaican Sorrel

It is used to flavor drinks, jams, jellies, wine, and sauces in the Caribbean, Mexico, West Africa, and Egypt. Roselle is used fresh in salads, especially fruit salads, with cooked vegetables, and in sauces, stews, and pies or tarts. Roselle is also dried and used as natural coloring.

The Caribbeans enjoy it as a traditional Christmas drink (also called sorrel) that is mixed with spices and rum. In Mexico, dried roselle is made into a refreshing drink called aqua de Jamaica.

Africans add sugar to their roselle drink to tone down the sourness. Roselle is also used in curries and chutneys in India and Southeast Asia, and in foods and beverages of Cuba, Central America, Mexico, and Florida. In Egypt and other Middle Eastern regions, it is added to desserts, drinks, and sweets. Spice Blends: sorrel drink blend, aqua de Jamiaca blend.

Health Benefits of Jamaican Sorrel

Indians, Mexicans, and Africans use it as a diuretic, to thin blood, and to lower blood pressure. Jamaican Sorrel is high in vitamins and minerals with powerful antioxidant properties. It helps lower elevated blood pressure, bad cholesterol and detoxify the entire body. Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) is a measure of total hydrophilic capacity. In fact, eating high ORAC foods such as Jamaican Sorrel can significantly raise the antioxidant power of human blood. It has a ORAC rating which is higher than vegetable juice, tomato juice and orange juice; and compares favorably to cranberry juice and pomegranate juice, which is well known for its antioxidant properties.

Other Names

It is called roselle in English, rosella in Spanish, bissap rouge in Senegalese, karkadeh in Egypt, rozelle in French, karkadi in German, and carcade in Italian.

Scientific Name

Hibiscus sabdariffa Family:  Malvaceae

Photo by Ikiwaner / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)