Rosella Jam (Not the bird)


Rosella Fruit

The particular Rosella I refer to here is a fast-growing annual woody sub-shrub native to tropical West-Africa by the scientific name Hibiscus sabradiffa. Being a Hibiscus, the Rosella harbours masses of beige hibiscus flowers with scarlet throats on scarlet stems bringing much colour to the garden. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, Rosella seed pods are enclosed by a fleshy set of sepals which can be boiled to make delicious jams, drinks and sweets. The stems also yield a fibre which is useful as string in the garden (very cool!). The Rosella prefers warm climates but do quite well in temperate zones. Plant directly where you want it to grow providing the spot has quite good drainage, otherwise you might find your plant rotting and succumbing to mould attack.

If your Rosella is doing well and looking healthy, wait a while before harvesting to allow as many buds to flower and seeds to mature as possible. While this is happening the scarlet sepals around the pods should only be getting fatter and juicier. From seed to harvest it should take around 6 months, by which time the whole plant will be reaching the end of its life span.

Once ready, cut all of the bright scarlet pods off the stems and take them somewhere for sorting.

Rosella Harvest

The scarlet sepals including the fleshy base-plate surrounding each of the seed pods can be simply broken away from the pods and separated for cooking. The seed pods can be dried and the seed stored for next season or added to the jam making process while fresh for their high levels of pectin (jam setting agent). I used bought pectin for the jam as I wanted to keep the seeds viable for next years crop.

Rosella sepals removed from pods.

Really its all quite simple: Peel and core roughly as many granny smith apples as you feel you need to match the volume of Rosella sepals you have. Chop the apples and Rosella up into smallish pieces and put into a deep pan with as much water as you need to just cover the fruit. Boil on stove top till its all soft and add your sugar and pectin. Add as much castor sugar as you have fruit. Keep stirring to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn and simmer till a cooled spoon of your substance maintains its shape and stick to the spoon turned upside down. Add hot to sterilised jars with sealing pop-top lids… coffee jars do not suffice as they rely on cardboard to form a seal.

Then you have Rosella (& Apple) Jam! YUM!! From the harvest of a single plant I made 5 jars of jam. Not bad for an experiment, and said jam got an enthusiastic ‘seal of approval’ from all whom tried it. 🙂

Rosella sepals ready to cook.

2 thoughts on “Rosella Jam (Not the bird)

  1. Thanks guy’s. Just wanted to know at what size you would wait for the calyx to get before harvesting? And what you consider the best method of seed saving?

    1. I found that on any given plant there will be a range of calyx sizes at any one given time as the flowers dont all open at once – rather, bud and flower continually as it grows. I grow them till the very first pods are totally mature (regardless of calyx) then keep those as the saved seed. There should be a good number of harvest-able calyxs at this time. Usually the best calyxs are on pods in which the seeds are still a bit immature.

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