Row by Row Episode 146: You’ve Got To Grow This

Roselle Hibiscus

Nowadays you hear about various berries and plants from around the world that have numerous health benefits such as being anti-aging and anticancer. You find these wonderful plant products in pills and creams to be used daily as part of your health routine. Some plants have their vitamins and minerals infused into drinks such as sports drinks and teas.

Most of the same benefits you find in these other plants can actually be found in roselle hibiscus. Roselle is native to central and west Africa but is now widely grown as an ornamental plant around the world but it is edible and this plant can be grown in your own garden. There are a number of ways to extract the benefits of this beautiful plant that will give you an ample supply of helpful vitamins and minerals.

Uses

Roselle is a highly versatile plant that is used around the world in many different ways. The leaves can be used fresh or dried and made into various items. Traditionally, some cultures have used the plant as a natural diuretic and even a mild laxative. But roselle has many more uses apart from direct medicinal applications.

In many places around the world, roselle is used as a vegetable in cultural dishes such as chutneys, soups, and salads or simply used to add a mild sourness to other dishes. For example, the Anhdra people make a dish called gongura pachadi which uses the leaves of the plant cooked with red chilies, coriander, and other spices for a dish that is traditional for their festivals. 

Some cultures, such as those in the Caribbean, use the fruit to make teas. These teas are often made from the fruit or leaves, dried or fresh, mixed with cloves, bay leaves, and sugar. In other places you will find the tea mixed with rum for celebratory cocktails for social events. The fruits can be made into a lovely, flavorful wine as well.

If the inner bud of the flower is boiled, you can obtain pectin from the plant and make jams, jellies, and preserves just by adding sugar to the mixture. The jelly has a similar flavor as plum with a bit more acidity to it and pairs well with cream cheese and crackers.

Using the edible parts of the plants adds the medicinal benefits of roselle such as anti-aging, anticancer, hypertension control, and the various vitamins and minerals to your diet. The inedible, woody stem of the plant is used by several cultures to make cordage and burlap in place of jute fibers. The entirety of this plant can be used in some form or another.

Growing

Roselle should be planted from April to May in an area that has plenty of room as these plants get to be 7 to 10 feet tall. It is recommended that you plant them at a minimum of 3 feet apart to allow enough room for their foliage.

This plant can take heat as it is a tropical plant, however, if used as an ornamental in a pot it will require daily watering. They also tend to become root-bound when planted in pots. 

Roselle has a 3 to 4 month growing cycle and does well in zones 7 through 10. Those living in zones 6 and down would have difficulty as it is a plant that requires more tropical environments to thrive.

Harvesting

You should expect to be harvesting your roselle crop up into October or until the first frost in your area. Nearly all of the plant can be harvested.

Depending on your needs from the plant, you can harvest leaves and flowers early on. If you are interested in more homeopathic uses for the plant you can also harvest the roots near the end of the season. 

Once you have harvested the leaves, flowers, and pods of your roselle, and the plant dies back, you will be left with a woody stalk. The fibers in this can be harvested as well to make cordage for rope and other items.

Once the growing season has ended, be sure to remove all of the roots and stalks. Avoid planting another type of hibiscus in the same plot as it may attract nematodes to the soil that will harm the plants.

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