Roselle, Hibiscus, and Jamaica

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

These are all names for the bright red, tart, aromatic fleshy flower covering (the calyx, more familiar as the leaf-like stubs at the base of a strawberry) of a kind of hibiscus. Hibiscus sabdariffa is a native of Africa and a relative of okra. It’s much used in Mexico and the Caribbean, sometimes fresh, sometimes dried and infused to make drinks, sometimes rehydrated and cooked with other ingredients. In the United States it’s most familiar as an ingredient in Hawaiian punch and many red herbal teas (the pigments are anthocyanins). Jamaica (“ha-MY-ka”) is remarkable for being a concentrated source of vitamin C, phenolic antioxidants, and gel-forming pectin.