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July Plant of the Month
Sorrel by Josie Flowers
|Let’s discuss sorrel because July is the
perfect time of the year to start growing sorrel in
Sorrel/Roselle goes by many names around the world but we can all agree on its great taste and health benefits. Sorrel is a member of the hibiscus family and grows well in our tropical climate. It doesn’t require fertilizer. All sorrel needs is well drained sandy soil and full sun which will allow it to flourish. In Belize District, I haven’t seen seeds at the store to buy but I’m sure asking around will get you lucky.
If you get a chance read Issue 44 of the Belize Ag Report (linked below). Mr. Justin B. Reynolds wrote a wonderful piece about sorrel. I was surprised to learn that he has identified 10 varieties here in Belize. He recommends planting the local light pink fruit if you want the plant for its leaves because it is sweeter. The only difficulty with this plant is that ants like it too. So harvesting won’t be easy because you have to fight ants. If what you are after is the pods then plant a variety that produces large pods; harvesting is easier. Also keep in mind that different varieties produce at different times of the year. It is best to ask the person you got the seeds from for planting instructions on the time of year to grow that particular sorrel seed.
Like many fruits and vegetables grown in Belize, sorrel is susceptible to nematodes and powder mildew; these are often our greatest troubles in the garden. We have some recommendations on our website to help combat these issues.
Sorrel is commonly used to make a drink. I must mention if you drink more than 1 litre per day it can start to strip vitamins because it is a diuretic. I mentioned this because below is a recommended recipe for Caribbean sorrel tea. You can also find nutritional facts and health benefits that will encourage you to start growing.
Apart from their delightful taste, sorrel/roselle is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Nutritionists have found roselle calyces as sold in Central American markets to be high in calcium, niacin, riboflavin and iron.
Sorrel /Roselle Plant Health Benefits
1. Menstrual Pain – Provides relief from cramps and menstrual pain while it helps in restoring hormonal balance (which can reduce other symptoms of menstruation such as mood swings, depression, and overeating).
2. Anti-Inflammatory and Antibacterial Properties -- The tea is rich in ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient required by our bodies to boost and stimulate immune system activity. The fresh or dried flower contains high quantities of Vitamin C (prevents colds and flu). It has both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and helps to treat discomfort caused by fever (due to its cooling effect).
3. Aids Digestion -- The seed capsule in the fruit is known for its diuretic and tonic properties. It is hence used for the following purposes: Increasing both urination and bowel movements (due to its diuretic properties) ; Treats constipation ; Prevents colorectal cancer.
4. Weight Loss -- The herbal tea is also beneficial for losing weight. If you consume food that is rich in carbohydrates, that means you are getting lots of sugar and starch, so you are likely to gain weight. However, research studies have suggested that the extract lowers the absorption of starch and glucose and may help with weight loss. It inhibits the production of amylase, which helps in the absorption of carbohydrates and starch, so drinking the tea prevents that absorption from occurring. Therefore, hibiscus tea is found in many weight loss products.
5. Antidepressant Properties – Contains antidepressant properties like flavanoids that help to calm the nervous system. Helps to reduce anxiety and depression by creating a relaxed sensation in the body and mind.
6. Anti-Cancer Properties -- The herbal tea contains hibiscus protocatechuic acid which has anti-tumor and antioxidant properties. A study conducted by the Department and Institute of Biochemistry at the Chung Shan Medical and Dental College, in Taichung, Taiwan suggests that hibiscus slows down the growth of cancerous cells by inducing apoptosis, commonly known as programmed cell death.
7. Cough, Colds and Fever Management -- According to the book “Healing Herbal Teas,” the fresh flowers contain around 6.7 mg of ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C, which is one of the more essential nutrients needed by the body. Along with this significantly beneficial substance, it is known to have anti-inflammatory and mild anti-bacterial properties. Thus the tea is often used as a supplement to help treat coughs and colds. Because of its cooling effect, it is especially effective in reducing the discomfort of fevers that may accompany such ailments.
8. Blood Pressure Management -- A report from the AHA (American Heart Association) that was published in November of 2008 states that consuming sorrel tea lowers the blood pressure in pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. It also states that 1/3 of adults in the United States suffers from high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension. A study conducted by Odigie IP suggests that it has anti-hypertensive and cardio-protective properties that can be beneficial to people suffering from hypertension and those at high risk of various cardiovascular diseases. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, the tea can reduce blood pressure by up to 10 points, according to research done at Tufts University in Boston. For this drastic improvement to occur, you need to consume three cups every day for a few weeks. Also, hibiscus tea has diuretic properties that will increase urination, simultaneously helping to lower blood pressure.
9. Protects Liver – Antioxidant properties help to treat liver diseases. (Antioxidants help to protect your body from diseases because they neutralize the free radicals present in body tissues and cells.)
10. Maintains Healthy Teeth and Gums – This is due to the significant calcium content in red sorrel.
11. Healthy Pregnancy -- Pregnant women should consume more iron rich foods than anyone else; red sorrel is rich in iron.
12. It tastes great! -- This herbal tea has a taste that is very similar to cranberry juice. It can definitely be described as tart, so you can add sugar or honey to increase the sweetness. Also, you can try adding spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger depending on your taste preferences.
Caribbean Sorrel Tea
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Additional time needed: 8 hrs
Yield: 1 pitcher
9 ounces dried red sorrel buds
3 teaspoons grated ginger
3 strips dried orange zest
1 cinnamon stick
1 quart water
⅔ cup white sugar
Step 1 -- Combine sorrel, ginger, dried orange zest, and cinnamon stick in a bowl.
Step 2 -- Bring water to a boil in a saucepan or kettle; pour over sorrel mixture. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Let mixture steep at room temperature, 8 hours to overnight.
Step 3 -- Strain sorrel mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher; discard solids. Serve over ice.
Belize AgReport's excellent article on Sorrel, Issue 44, by Justin Reynolds, Page 18