Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of Hibiscus native to West Africa. It is also grown in many other countries in East Asia, Africa, Mexico, and Australia; citizens of each of these countries call it by different names.
Citizens of the Caribbean region and Latin American countries call it sorrel. The matured plant is fleshy and bright red in colour.
In the Caribbean, sorrel drink is made from the sepals of roselle. In Mexico it is called—’agua de Flor de Jamaica’ (water flavored with roselle) or more often “agua de Jamaica”.
It is most often homemade, however, in recent years commercial entities have been making it for sale to the public and it has become quite popular among North Americans.
There have been studies which indicate positive results from treating people with hypertension and hyperlipidemia. Roselle has also been known to many as a diuretic and mild laxative. Some people use the leaves in their cuisine with lentils, fish, pork, or chicken.
In some countries, cultivation of the roselle is mainly for the production of bast fibre from the stem which is often used as a substitute for jute in making burlap.
Christmas in the Caribbean
There are many people who drink as many as 15 glasses of sorrel around the Christmas Holiday season including New Year.
The drink is one of several inexpensive beverages which is heavily commonly consumed in celebration of the Christmas Holidays, although it is also enjoyed year round. There are different variations of making the drink, in some countries other fruit juices are added to the mix; alcohol, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, or bay leaves are also used for added flavor.
The basic preparation involves boiling dried sepals and calyces of the sorrel/flower of Jamaica plant in water for 8 to 10 minutes (or until the water turns red), then adding sugar, and other ingredients to the mixture. It is often served chilled.
While the creation of soups and sauces from sorrel is not as popular in the Caribbean, that doesn’t prevent its residents from buying or harvesting the plant by the dozens just for making a drink. Local markets and homegrown sorrel plants are reaped around the time of Christmas. Dinners and family get-togethers are not the same unless glasses of the red richness clank in sheer merriment.
Many Caribbean people believe that whether it is enjoyed in its natural form or adding ginger, cinnamon, or a bit of rum to the mix, the benefits of sorrel surpass all the worries of calories being added to your diet. It is a part of tradition in the Caribbean to accept that anything that is ‘ground grown’ has some extraordinary properties which make it on par (or close) with any medication.
It’s almost certain that curiosity has led many to wonder what are the many benefits of such a great-tasting beverage.
it is not surprising that sorrel contains vitamin C which helps in maintaining the immune system, increase cell count and fight various kinds of infections, not to mention the common cold.
With the vitamin A in sorrel, persons can notice an improvement of their eye sight and also prevention of cataracts and the degeneration of the macular and ocular over time.
An essential mineral such as potassium is but one component in sorrel which makes it to your glass at meal time. Potassium is especially helpful in ensuring that blood pressure is reduced and the likelihood of clotting and the strain on the cardiovascular system is averted.
Another mineral found in sorrel is iron. Just like how vitamin C increases the white blood cell count, iron boosts the red blood cell production which helps to prevent anemia, expedites the healing process, hair growth and increases circulation.
Where would we be without calcium in our diet (it’s a good excuse to drink another glass) the mineral is also found in sorrel and its role is to promote good bone health.
Weight loss is something that is desired by most persons after they complete eating their plates of Christmas dinner. Dietary fiber is especially helpful when one wants to decrease their weight resulting from the vast combinations of meats, fats and carbs during the season and throughout the year. Dietary fiber is also said to be integral in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes as well as the treatment of cramping, bloating, constipation and other gastrointestinal issues. Sorrel contains very few calories and almost no fat, so drinking a glass or two is especially beneficial for those who want to lose weight.
Antioxidants which are found in Sorrel give the plant its rich red color and is from the group of compounds, known as flavonoids. Flavonoids frees the body of radicals and prevent chronic and terminal diseases. Flavonoids are also capable of ridding the body of some cancer cells which prevent a person from developing cancer at any point in their life.
Sorrel reduces high cholesterol and decreases the likelihood of persons of attaining clogged arteries and also reduces the risk of heart disease.
The topical application of the sorrel fruit or flower to areas of the skin which experience itching or rashes can significantly improve or lessen the occurrence of itching and reduce inflammation and redness.
The mineral properties of Roselle are documented in USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
By Alexandra Daley