Caribbean Market: Red Sorrel

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

By Amber Charles, MSPH, RDN

December 17, 2020


Yuh' want some sorrel awa'? - Eh!

Nothing rings in the Christmas season in Trinidad & Tobago more than sorrel - red and black - being sold at the (farmer's) markets and along the roadway. The best part is when it's on my stovetop!


Boiling sorrel with spices such as cloves, ginger, nutmeg and bayleaf from the tree in our yard brings a smile to my face and a sweet aroma to the house.


If you've ever eaten the fresh, raw sorrel then you'd be familiar with its complex blend of tart and sweet that sends your taste buds into overdrive!


Let's learn some more about this all-time favorite fruit.


Background

Alternate names: Roselle, Jamaican sorrel, Florida cranberry, Guinea Sorrel, Java Jute, Jelly Okra, Nubia tea, Pink Lemonade, Rozelle Hemp, Sorrel and Sour-Sour (1,2,3).


Native to tropical Africa, Hibiscus sabdariffa, the red sorrel is a relative of the hibiscus and okra/ochro (1,3). Many parts of the plant (seeds, leaves, fruits, and roots) are used in traditional medicine or in foods (1,3).


The fleshy, bright red cup-like structure that contains the plant's seeds is called a calyx and this is the part of the plant that we're likely most familiar with (1).


Planted in April/May, the sorrel can be harvested in October/November, with one plant producing as much as 12 lbs. of fruit! (1,2,4).


Food uses

Popularly known in the Caribbean for festive Christmas drinks, red sorrel is used much the same way as cranberries in other parts of the world (1,2).


Its calyces are used fresh or dried and add flavor and color to herb teas or used to make sorrel punch or chutney (1,2).


Carib Brewery produces a Shandy Sorrel in which roselle tea is combined with beer in Trinidad and Tobago and it is available year-round (3).


Sorrel is high in pectin, which makes it great for jams/jellies, or delicious deserts such as sorbets, tarts, pie, cake or other baked goods (1,2).


Its seeds, which are high in protein, can be roasted and brewed like coffee, or ground and added to soups and salads (1).


Need a recipe? - Check this out!


Nutritional Facts

Sorrel has a great nutrient profile and provides vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, anthocyanins and antioxidants (2,5).

If the calyces are used, it's also a source of dietary fiber.

Health Benefits

Given its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, sorrel may protect against diseases related to oxidative stress (heart disease, blood pressure, stroke, cancer, smoking-related) (2,5).


Purchasing tips

  • Ensure that the surroundings are clean, well-lit, and well-ventilated

  • At the grocery store, observe the shelves for cleanliness, read the package label for the "best buy" date and ensure that the package has not been tampered with or opened

  • The sorrel should be clean, free of excess dirt, bruises, bites, or pests

Storage tips

  • Sorrel can last for up to one week after picking (1)

  • Alternatively, fresh, or dried sorrel can be packaged into a freezer bag and frozen for a longer period

Sources:

1. Roselle - University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (ufl.edu)

2. Roselle: An Unusual Culinary Herb - pegplant

3. Roselle facts and health benefits (healthbenefitstimes.com)

4. Growing Roselle Plants: Learn About The Uses And Benefits Of Roselle (gardeningknowhow.com)

5. ijarbs33.pdf

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