Thai Red Roselle: an edible and beautiful addition to the garden

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.

Red That Roselle is a type of hibiscus that can be used in making teas, jellies, juices and more. Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Red That Roselle is a type of hibiscus that can be used in making teas, jellies, juices and more. Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Roselle is a perfect edition to your edible landscape. It has many uses in the kitchen and is quite a stunning annual. Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Roselle is a perfect edition to your edible landscape. It has many uses in the kitchen and is quite a stunning annual. Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

Growing Thai Red Roselle from seed is easy.

Thai Red Roselle seedlings about a week after planting.

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.

Growing Thai Red Roselle in the garden | www.pickytoplenty.com

Roselle seedlings at one month.

Growing Thai Red Roselle in the garden | www.pickytoplenty.com

Thai Red Roselle

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

Thai Red Roselle has many uses in the kitchen from juice and tea to salads and jellies. Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thai Red Roselle has many uses in the kitchen from juice and tea to salads and jellies. Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are many ways to use roselle in the kitchen. Here are a few recipes I found using Pinterest.

Sips

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)

Sweets

Roselle Frosting from The Cupcake Project

Hibiscus Tea Butter from Sprinkle Bakes

Roselle Granita from hsa*ba

Roselle Marshmallows from Not Without Salt

Savouries

Roselle Salt from The Foodies Kitchen

Roselle Rosemary Chicken from The Foodies Kitchen

Storage

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

Thai Red Roselle is both pretty and useful in the home garden. Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thai Red Roselle is both pretty and useful in the home garden. Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Useful Links on Growing Thai Red Roselle

Thai Red Roselle from CC Grow Plant Database

How to Grow Hibiscus from Mother Earth News

7 thoughts on “Thai Red Roselle: an edible and beautiful addition to the garden

  1. Wow…how interesting! i wonder if it would grow wel here? I’ll have to look into it.

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I’d love if you’d link up with us again this week!

    ~L

  2. This is the plant I chose to try out this year as well! How funny! But not so funny as the seeds I ordered never germinated (I started them end of March). I was told they needed to be scarified so I tired that a few weeks ago but nothing. Do you mind telling me where you got your seeds? I will have to try again next year as I’m in Zone 5 and it’s getting too late in the season. Lovely, informative post!

  3. I am starting these seeds for the first time this year also. I can’t wait to try them out. I planted them a three days ago and am starting to see tiny little sprouts working their way through the soil.:)

    I will most likely make jelly with some, but my plan is to dehydrate most of it for tea and a kind of spice.
    The calyxes are supposed to be very tasty on ice cream, and would look so exotic used this way.

    Thanks for all the info!

    • I started mine over a month ago and they are growing well. I should be able to get them outside in a week or two. Can’t wait to see how they turn out. I plan to make jelly and dry some for tea as well. I think I will also try the frosting and the juice. Good luck with your and thank you for reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *