“Sorrel, that’s interesting.” We’ve heard this a few times, but it tends to be the wrong plant which people are referring to. Not to be confused with the European leafy green plant, sorrel is what British Caribbean people call hibiscus. There are over 200 species of hibiscus so the one in discussion is hibiscus sabdariffa.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES
There are two types of sorrel. One that sprouts white flowers and one that sprouts crimson coloured flowers – the latter is more widely available. It’s the calyx of the plant that is used, a pod that forms once the flowers blossoming season is over. This is what makes drinks, jam, ice cream and it is used both fresh and dried.
Sorrel has a bitter, rich taste and it is often referred to as the Caribbean cranberry. To balance its tart taste, sorrel is sweetened and combined with spices. When prepared with this method it tastes like a non-alcoholic mulled wine.
BENEFITS & USES
Sorrel drink is made by infusion and is notorious for its vitamin C content and ability to lower blood pressure. The crimson colour is alluring and is what most people find attractive as it can be used as a natural food colouring.
Due to its global popularity, sorrel has various names. In Iraq, it’s called Chai Kujarat and prepared when someone special is visiting. Similarly, across the Caribbean it allows families to connect and create special moments at Christmas when the flowers are in season. Below is a list of countries that use sorrel along with their names.
Latin America & Spanish Caribbean – Flor de Jamaica
Ghana – Bissap
Gambia – Wonjo
Nigeria – Zobo
Haiti – Rose Kayenn
Australia – Roselle
Egypt – Karkade