Are you craving a cool, refreshing summer drink but you’re sick of lemonade and iced tea? Grab a tall glass of Agua de Jamaica, instead. Not familiar with this beverage? Agua de Jamaica is a popular drink in the Caribbean made from water, sugar, and the sweet edible calyces of Roselle flowers. Read on for Roselle seed information, tips on harvesting seeds from Roselle, and other uses for Roselle seeds.
Roselle Flower Seeds
Hibiscus sabdariffa, commonly called Roselle, is a large, tropical, bushy perennial in the Mallow family. Sometimes it is called Jamaican Sorrel or French Sorrel because its edible leaves look and taste like Sorrel. Roselle can be found in humid tropical locations, like Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, where the bright red plant stems are used for making a fiber similar to jute, and its fruits are harvested for beverages, sauces, jellies, and wine.
Roselle is hardy in zones 8-11, but if given a long and warm growing season, it can be grown and harvested like an annual in other zones. However, it cannot tolerate frost and requires a lot of moisture to grow happily.
Roselle flower seeds take about six months to mature. A mature Roselle plant can grow up to 6 feet wide (2 m.) and 8 feet (2.5 m.) tall. In late summer, it is covered in big, beautiful hibiscus flowers. When these flowers fade, their seed-filled calyces are harvested for jellies and teas.
Harvesting Seeds from Roselle
Roselle seeds are usually harvested ten days after the flower blooms. The large flowers fade and fall off, leaving behind their bright red, fleshy lotus-shaped calyces. Inside each calyx is a pod of seeds.
These calyces are harvested by carefully snipping them off the stems with sharp pruners or scissors. It’s very important for repeat blooming not to rip or twist the calyces off the plant.
The seeds grow within the calyces in a velvety capsule, similar to how seeds grow in peppers. After they have been harvested, the seed pod is pushed out of the calyx with a small, hollow, metal tube. The Roselle flower seeds are then dried to be planted later and the fleshy, red calyces are dried or eaten fresh.
Uses for Roselle Seeds
The small, brown, kidney-shaped seeds themselves are only actually used to grow more plants. However, the red fruit they grow in contains Vitamin C, tastes like cranberries (only less bitter), and is high in pectins, which make them easy to use in jellies. With just water, sugar, and Roselle calyces, you can make jellies, syrups, sauces, teas, and other beverages.
Agua de Jamaica is made by boiling the Roselle calyces in water, straining this water, and adding sugar, spices, and even rum to taste. The leftover boiled calyces can be puréed to use for jellies and sauces. The fruits can also be eaten raw right off the plant.
Roselle flower seeds can be purchased online, sometimes under the name Flor de Jamaica. To grow your own, start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Give them lots of moisture and humidity. Make sure they’ll have a long warm season in which to develop their seeds. If you live in a region where summers are too short for Roselle to mature, many health stores carry dried calyces or hibiscus teas.