Every year I like to try new varieties in the garden. This year, I am growing Thai Red Roselle, one of many new varieties I am testing out. Thai Red Roselle is both edible and beautiful. The calyxes, or fruits, produced by this flowering plant can be dried to make teas, cooked to make jellies or juiced raw. Even Roselle’s flowers and leaves are edible. Roselle can be tossed in salads or added to desserts for a hint of citrus. The taste is fruity and similar to cranberry, so I have read.
What is Thai Red Roselle?
Before attending the Seedy Saturday sale, I had never heard of Thai Red Roselle. Seed swaps are great for discovering new varieties. I scored a bunch this year and roselle is one of them. The seeds are heart-shaped and slightly large. After bringing the seeds home, I did a quick search on growing Thai Red Roselle and here is what I learned:
Hibiscus, of which Roselle is a variety of, is a tropical plant, but if started indoors it can be grown successfully in more northern climates, including my 6a zone here in Niagara. I started my plants about a month ago and they have really taken off.
One goal with my gardens this year is to make them all edible. My flower gardens never get the same attention as the vegetable ones since they don’t bring me the same level of sasisfaction. Sure, they make the house look pretty, but if I can’t eat it, I can’t be bothered with it. We own two acres, but one is farmed (I hate this fact, but since this is not our forever homestead and we get a tax break, it’s hard to say no). Part of our acre is occupied by our pool and a great big fenced yard for the furkids, which leaves me with less than an ideal spaces to grow food on. With that in mind, I have decided to make the front gardens both eye-pleasing and edible. By combining edible flowers, herbs and even some fruit and vegetable varieties, I hope to create a landscape that is both stunning and satiating.
Roselle perfectly fits the bill. It has many uses in the kitchen and is as attractive as it is edible.
Growing Thai Red Roselle
You want to start your Thai Red Roselle around the same time you would plants like peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. Since this is a heat-loving plant, you want to give it as much of a head start as you can. I started mine at the beginning of March in 1-inch peat pots filled with a growing medium. Plant seeds 1/4-1/2 inch (about the depth of the seed) and keep moist. I covered the plants in plastic trays with covers, providing adequate water. When seedlings get to be a few inches tall, it’s time to transplant to a larger container.
Transplant Roselle about the same time you would any frost-sensitive plants such as those listed above. For me, that is after our May 24 long weekend. For square-foot gardening, you want to plant one Thai Red Roselle per square-foot. You want to plant your Roselle in a sunny spot in the garden, preferably with loose and loamy soil. Roselle grows well in soil that is high in organic matter, though too much nitrogen can delay flowering. Mulch plants once they are 1-2 feet in height to control weeds and keep in moisture. Roselle requires a moderate level of watering, about 1 inch per week.
Thai Red Roselle is susceptible to aphids, so either use an organic spray or companion plant to control insects. Roselle branches should be pruned when they are 12-18 inches tall to help control height. These plants can reach up so 6 feet in height.
Harvesting Thai Red Roselle
You can start picking the edible leaves about 6 weeks after transplanting. Try to pick calyxes while they are young and tender, which can be done by hand. Early picking will encourage growth, just as it does in beans and peas. It is advised to aim for picking 10 days after flowering. Evening is the recommended time for harvesting as temperatures are cooler.
Roselle plants average 1 to 5 pounds of calyxes per plant. It takes 10-12 pounds of fresh calyxes to make 1 pound dried. For the home gardener, 3-6 plants should yield plenty to enjoy roselle both fresh and dried.
Store fresh calyxes in the fridge for about a week.
Thai Red Roselle in the Kitchen
There are many ways to use roselle in the kitchen. Here are a few recipes I found using Pinterest.
Hibiscus Tea Lemonade from Use Real Butter
Roselle Cordial from Cherry on a Cake
Roselle Pomegranate Fire Cider from Chestnut Herbs (post also includes great information on growing roselle)
Roselle Tea from Mother Earth News
Healthy Roselle Juice from Messy Witchen
Roselle Margarita from Chow (Cannot wait to try this one)
Roselle Frosting from The Cupcake Project
Hibiscus Tea Butter from Sprinkle Bakes
Roselle Granita from hsa*ba
Roselle Marshmallows from Not Without Salt
Roselle Salt from The Foodies Kitchen
Roselle Rosemary Chicken from The Foodies Kitchen
Thai Red Roselle Jelly from Dogwood Lane Rambles
Hibiscus Jelly from Food.com
Roselle in Syrup from Mother Earth Living
Homemade Roselle Jam from Ann Coo Journal
Roselle Infused Vinegar from The Foodies Kitchen
Useful Links on Growing Thai Red Roselle
Thai Red Roselle from CC Grow Plant Database
How to Grow Hibiscus from Mother Earth News