For all the Victorians out there, rosellas grow on a bush.
For all the hipsters out there, you know when you go to a very special cocktail bar and they offer you “wild hibiscus in syrup” with your champagne cocktail (making it that lovely shade of pink that ladies like so much), that is also rosellas. Baby boomers may remember the ultra-trendy red zinger tea that we scandalised our WW2 parents with. It was based on dried rosellas.
Rosellas or wild hibiscus are an extremely traditional Queensland and northward crop. I always heard that they originated in Hawaii but as they grow wild in the Northern Territory, I’m inclined to think they may have come from Indonesia or Polynesia.
A stringy, leggy bush, they grow while flowers that look a little like a single small hibiscus. The petals drop and the bush develops waxy red sepals over a large seed pod. Its the waxy red petals that you use. The seed pods are kept for next years sewing or for putting in the chook food. Either is fine.
SO! Rosella jam, cordial, chutney or dried for herbal tea. They are all good and more importantly, basically free. Today’s effort was rosella cordial which uses quite a bit of lemon juice also and gives a very tangy drink, ideal for children or for mixing with spirits. Bottled while hot, it will keep in the fridge for quite a while. Quite a long while, in fact, as I tested this on some of my unknowing friends and they didn’t die from cordial kept for well over a year. (Hey friends, remember those beans I gave you in the casserole – I had a problem identifying them but apparently they are fit for eating……..)
You probably won’t find these products anywhere outside of Queensland, Australia. I had some talks with a foliage wholesaler and told them that the seed pods burst and these babies just grew back through the lawn. They suggested that was a good point if you are looking to build an industry on them. In saying that though, they absolutely hate being transplanted. The seeds are so plentiful that I rake some ground, strew plenty of seed over and water well. If you can’t get a harvest out of that, you are being too particular.
Tradition has it that rosella is good for high blood pressure. I wouldn’t know about this but I’m figuring it can’t be bad for it. When the moment comes that I can no longer buy tea leaves, I will replace this completely with the dried rosellas.
Don’t those bottles just glow like a CQ garnet? Try some if you can get your hands on it.