Sorrel is synonymous with Christmas in the Caribbean. The seasonal plant with it’s rich red flowers produces a refreshing sorrel drink that is a favorite during the Christmas season.
Sorrel or Roselle and also by its scientific name ‘Hibiscus sabdariffa’, sorrel is a species of the Hibiscus family. It bears annually, maturing in about six months and growing to about 7–8 ft. There are different types of sorrel grown in the region, however, the deep red fruit of the Roselle is the most common variety found in the Caribbean.
Sorrel is a Christmas tradition in most Caribbean countries including Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, St. Lucia, Grenada, Montserrat, Dominica, Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. The fruit itself is fairly inexpensive and can usually be found in abundance at local markets. The dried fruit can last for months to be used all year round as jams , spreads and marmalade.
The sorrel plant also has many medicinal attributes and contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, calcium, niacin, riboflavin and a group of compounds called flavonoids.
Flavonoids are responsible for the deep red color and are known to act as a powerful antioxidant which eliminates disease-causing free radicals from the body. Scientists also believe that the flavonoids in sorrel may be a useful deterrent against certain types of cancers and help to boost the immune system.
The sorrel plant is also thought to contain anti-hypertensive properties. Traditional healers in some Asian countries and in Latin America have used the Hibiscus, specifically Roselle, as a diuretic, a mild laxative, and as a treatment for some cardiac and nerve diseases.