Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), otherwise known as Florida cranberry, Jamaica roselle or rosella in Australia, has become a favorite in the summer and fall garden. The young leaves are edible in salads or sauted in small batches in the summer while you're waiting for the main show which is the swollen red calyxes which are left after the flowers (also edible!) fall off.
I start my seeds around March and by April the young plants are ready to place in the garden. 3 or 4 plants will get you quite a number of calyxes to harvest in the fall. This spring I planted around 8 plants and have been harvesting for about a month with no end in sight! It all depends on how much room you have as the plants can reach 5 ft. in height by 4 ft. or more wide.
When the flower blooms and falls off, the red calyx begins to swell. When it reaches about an inch and a quarter at the base, the calyx is ready to be harvested. I use an apple corer to push out the seed pod (which I throw in the compost). At that point the calyxes can be dried, used fresh, made into jam or whatever you would like to do. One of my favorite ways to use them is to infuse the dried calyxes into honey! Yummy!
Not only do the fresh or dried calyxes make a delicious tea or jam, but the health benefits are off the charts! I am not a Dr. or health advisor and am just relaying "folk" uses for this plant. The reputed benefits of hibiscus tea include reducing blood pressure and high cholesterol, assisting digestive, inflammatory, immune system and liver problems as well as fighting cancer. It may also speed up metabolism and help in healthy, gradual weight loss. It is rich in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants.
What's not to love about this plant?