Jan 19, 2012


Mother Earth News magazine recently published an article about the blood-pressure lowering properties found in a tropical plant of the hibiscus family. The chemicals in this plant were proven to be more effective than the leading laboratory drugs for blood pressure reduction and it is said to also be useful in lowering cholesterol, aids digestion and is a treatment for scurvy and an immune booster. I also read somewhere that it is used as a remedy for the aftereffects of drunkenness. The plant is used as a diuretic, a mild laxative and for the treatment of colds and cancer. This plant is non other than sorrel, (Hibiscus sabdariffa) used to make the traditional Christmas drink of Trinidad and Tobago. It is the same plant used to make the familiar red zinger tea. Known as roselle and Flor De Jamaica it is a tropical or subtropical plant native to Iran, Africa, Mexico, India and the Caribbean but it can be grown as a warm-weather annual here in the US.

Attractive, delicious, good for your health - all reasons to love and grow sorrel.

While at my parents' house in December, I was awoken one night by a loud cracking noise just outside my bedroom window. I described the noise to my father the next day and the retired Police Sargent in him set out to investigate, armed with a cutlass. The noise turned out to be the sound of an unusually large sorrel bush breaking under the weight of its mature fruit. Together we cut and hauled the bush to the kitchen area and proceeded to harvest the sorrel fruits from all the surrounding plants which were growing among bananas and pigeon pea shrubs. We filled three large bowls of sorrel while chatting about this and the other. Dad pointed out that he and his friends and siblings ate the young sorrel leaves when they were children. I tried some. They were sour but very tasty and a bit like cranberries. The leaves can be used in salads and are favored in curries and stews in many African countries. The fruit of the sorrel plant consists or an acorn shaped seed covered by short, colorless hairs and encased by a deep red calyx supported by a short spiky collar. Peeled away, the calyxes are the most desirable parts of the plant. Also, the stems of sorrel contain strong fibers which are used to create ropes and rugs.

My mom gave me small bag of dried sorrel to bring back to New York. She was sure to include a couple leaves from the bay leaf or spice tree from the backyard. I have found packets of dried sorrel in the Latin/ Mexican sections of many supermarkets and of course it is sold in small groceries in Caribbean neighborhoods. Packaged this way it is available to be enjoyed all-year round. It is easy to prepare this delicious drink. Simply add the dried sorrel to water and boil for five to ten minutes. Almost immediately the water will become a luscious deep red. You may add a few whole cloves and/or a stick of cinnamon to the boiling water. Cool and strain. Add sugar to taste and serve with ice. I'm a bit of a purist and find the taste to be best with nothing added. However, Jamaicans are known for adding ginger to their sorrel which to me creates an entirely different experience. I tried one such concoction at Miss Lily's on Houston Street a few days ago. Not bad at all. Carib Lager Beer bottles a Shandy Carib in three mixtures: beer with ginger, beer with lime and beer with sorrel. Try sorrel with rum for an evening cocktail. Whichever way you like it, drink to your heart's content, live well and enjoy!

Post a Comment


Russ, a recently added member, has been keeping the paths weed-free and tidy. The black swallowtail butterfly lays its eggs on bronze ...