These flowers are stunning and I’m so excited to have wild rosella growing in the orchard at Booyong. The flowers are so beautiful!
This Hibiscus sabdariffa commonly grows in northern parts of Australia. It is actually a native of West Africa and prefers warm climates, growing well in our local area.
Fruit is expected to be ready three weeks after flowering. Seeds are planted when the soil begins to warm (approximately 23-25 degrees). Harvesting comes in flourishes and will generally continue until the first frost.
The plant is grown from seed each year in spring and requires 5 months of warm weather before it starts to produce fruit. When planting, you should sow the seeds 1cm deep directly into the soil. If you intend to create a hedge grow them 50cm apart, otherwise 1 metre is recommended.
They are an annual plant which grows in well-draining soil and like rich compost and a lot of water. Feeding with compost is helpful when flowers start to form and as the weather warms mulch is recommended with a good watering every 2-3 days.
The plants are also generally pest free; the birds don’t eat them and in our experience nor do the wallabies or roos. We do notice that they are covered in ants though so be sure to wash them thoroughly after harvest. The flowers also attract native and European bees.
They flower in the morning and the calyx is grown around the base of the flower which will drop off. The calyx will then increase in size and when approximately 1 inch in length is ready to harvest. We found using scissors to remove the pod was necessary as we didn’t want to harm new flowers appearing on the stem. We also noticed the fibre of the stem was easily removed; apparently this is used for weaving and can be used as garden ties.
When you pick rosellas you take the red husk of the outside of the seed pod. Wear gloves if you don’t wish to stain your hands. As the season progresses you can leave some rosella’s on the plant to dry, so seed pods will then turn brown and split open and can be used for planting next year. We will only select pods from the most productive plants for future use and keep them in a sealed plastic bag when dry.
At Booyong, now that we know how to re sew the seeds we will expand our Rosella bed to include 5-6 plants next summer. This should provide a good harvest as there are many interesting recipes for the Rosella we would like to try.
The Wild Rosella is high in Vitamin C, Calcium Iron and Magnesium. All of the plant can be used including the flowers, young leaves, and calyx. The young leaves are said to have a lemony spinach flavour and can be added to salads or a stir fry. They would even make a nice pesto; we’ll have to try that next year.
The petals are used to make hibiscus syrup and can be used whole in champagne along with 30ml’s of hibiscus syrup. These look stunning. They Calyx can also be removed from the seed pod and frozen in a plastic bag for later use.
Rosella Tea – The Calyx petals can be dried in the sun or a dehydrator and used to make tea. The colour and scent are beautiful and they are a wonderful accompaniment to ginger or lemongrass. A little honey is also nice if you prefer sweet tea.
Rosella Cordial – Dissolve 5 cups of sugar in 5 cups of water over heat in a saucepan, add 4 cups of flowers (harvesting when red) and bring to boil, simmering on low until it’s reduced by one third. Strain and bottle when hot – use within 12 months and 3 months after opening.
Rosella Syrup – (which we tried this year) Two cups of water (recommended ratio of 1*1 liquid to sugar generally), 1 cup brown sugar, 3-4 cups of flowers (seed pods removed), a little grated ginger and the zest of ½ a lemon. I removed the seed pods by cutting off the base of the flower and washed the petals thoroughly. They were dried on a strainer. The water, sugar, flowers, ginger and lemon were then brought to boil. I then reduced the heat and allowed to simmer until the sugar dissolved and the flowers softened (approx. 10 minutes). The pot was then removed from the heat and steeped to allow the flavour to combine and the mixture to cool. The mixture was then strained through a wire mesh and the remaining solids were placed in the compost bin. I added fresh and uncooked fresh rosella flowers to the jar and intend to use them as decoration in champagne next spring /summer. Chill in fridge.
Rosella Spritzer – In a tall glass add 30ml of syrup, 30ml vodka, gin or white rum and the juice of half a lime. Stir, add ice and top with soda or tonic.
Rosella Balsamic Reduction – In a small saucepan, simmer 1 cup of rosella syrup and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar for 20 minutes until thick. Great with steak of lamb!
Apparently they taste lovely with ginger, apples, lemongrass, chilli, peaches, pears and bananas. They are full of pectin and great for jam and chutney.
There are certainly many interesting recipes to explore and we’ll be sure to share them with you!