Waste not, Want not: Sorrel/Roselle

Christmas is around the corner so your sorrel should already be blushing in the front yard. My question is this. Are you only going to make Sorrel Drink? Or do you want a chance to get the most out of your plants this season? Then I need you to stop everything else you are doing and read below.


Strangers know her  as Sorrel or Roselle but to her family she is Hibiscus sabdiriffa. Not to be mistaken for these beautiful Hibiscus flowers of the same family.

The seeds actually contain the greatest source of  phenols and antioxidant activity. Can you imagine that it ALWAYS thrown away *bows head*. Additionally it’s full of protein, and not just any protein but the kind that is found in milk. Am I convincing you to collect sorrel seeds yet. This low density lipoprotein is a great addition to the diet.

It is known for its antiseptic, diuretic and sedative qualities as well as lowering blood pressure and improving digestion. That’s what the bush men say. And if it’s true, why aren’t we making more use of this plant?


The most important thing to consider is sunlight. Sorrel needs 13 h of sunlight during its first 4-5 months. Remember when the old folks used plant sorrel on Whit Monday with corn and peas. Ahhh, I see the light bulb going off in your head. Don’t you love when tradition and science decide to get down and dirty?

In addition, well-drained soil, 5-10 inches of rain in the first three to four months, and these babies can be nursed into a healthy, bountiful harvest.


So fresh ‘n so clean: Sorrel is best when it’s fresh. The beautiful colouring, high level of nutrients are reasons to use this as soon as it is picked.

Work on your tan: Sun drying is great for preserving sorrel calyces but even better is air drying. That way, anti oxidants are not reduced in great amount from the heat of the sun. Don’t be stingy with the amount you start with, because you will only recover about 10% of it. Bag it or press into ball and enjoy the next year around.

Chill out: Of course, if you have the space, freezing is another wonderful option and allows you to keep the rich red colour in whatever you choose to make.



During my time abroad, I couldn’t wait until December to pull out some sorrel flowers(even though they were ready since July) and  Clarke’s Court Pure White hashtag Caribbean Christmas. Or so I thought. Turns out Mali and most of French speaking Africa make this drink and call it bissap but instead of our spicy chaser version, they have a minty kick. Some persons even make it into a milkshake.

Funke’s twist on Sorrel Milkshake

Another awesome way that sorrel was prepared in China was a dried pickled snack, right next to the salted prunes and dried mangoes.

Pickled sorrel
You can use it when serving meat or in cakes, like this cheese cake below from Nesi Lemak Lover.
Nesi’s Sorrel Cheese Cake
For those who love cranberry sauce but don’t have access to the fruit, sorrel is a good substitute of colour, flavour and nutrition (healthier, in fact). Sorrel sauce is as simple as sugar, spices, citrus and sorrel.
Roselle ‘Florida Cranberry’ Sauce
Don’t skip out on a jam, jelly or stew to enjoy sorrel beyond the season.
The juice can also be used together with seaweed as a tonic in a colon detox salad or jelly or some home-made wine, tonic of a different kind.


Since sorrel is annual, we always cut the tree down to harvest the sorrel calyx and then burn the rest of the plant. My experience of ‘red-not-blood-stained’ fingers is enough to make me throw it all away. But there at least three ways that you can use them.

  • Fresh and raw in salad.
  • Cooked like spinach as a side dish, in soups or added to chutneys and curries
Hungry Ang Mo’s Sorrel leaf curry

Hungry Ang Mo also pickles the leaves with Tamarind paste for a savory-tangy tasty condiment.

  • It can also be dried and used as tea.


In their pods, they are used in the preparation of Sorrel jam so that you don’t have to add extra pectin.

Another option is dried and ground into a meal which can be used as coffee or to prepare a high protein soup.

On the medicine side it can used as a tonic, diuretic or laxative.

I don’t know but if I were you, I’d be heading out side to pick me some part of that sorrel tree. We can’t waste any more time.. See ya!






P.K. Wong, S. Yusof, H. M. Ghazali, Y. B. Che Man, Physiochemical characteristics of roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.), Nutrition and Food Science, 32 (2002), pp. 68-73

N. Mohd-Esa, F. Shin Hern, A. Ismali, C. Lye Yee, Antioxidant activity in different parts of roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) extracts and potential exploitation of the seeds, Food Chemistry, 122.4 (2010), pp. 1055-1060


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