‘Christmas breeze’, Jonkunnu and Christmas fruit cake are Christmas traditions that are uniquely Jamaican and we are highlighting one a day in the Jamaican Christmas blog series. Each day we will highlight a historical fact, food or tradition that are related to the special season. We would also like to hear from you, so send your comments or tell us your favourite Christmas memory.
A chilled glass of sorrel is one of the culinary highlights of a Jamaican Christmas. Weeks before the actual holiday, homemakers and foodies are busy preparing the spicy beverage to give the rum, pimento and ginger more time to mingle for a richer flavor. However, there is so much more to the carmine-hued bud than meets the eye.
Sorrel belongs to the more than 300 species of hibiscus around the world. The scientific name for sorrel is H sabdariffa, which has edible calyces or buds. Sorrel is also called roselle, Indian sorrel, Guinea sorrel, sour- sour, jelly okra, lemon bush, karkade and Florida cranberry.
Clarendon is the main producer of sorrel in Jamaica. Three varieties are grown in the island, a common variety (traditional red) which bears in the first and last quarter of the year, a blood red variety (early bearing red) which bears all year round and was introduced in the last two years and a white/green sorrel, which bears in December.
While most Jamaicans use the fleshy buds for beverages, the use of sorrel has been extended to squashes and chutney. In other West Indian territories sorrel is used in the preparation of jelly, tea, marmalade, ices, ice creams, pies, sauces, tarts and other sweet treats.
In recent times, tea and beverage makers have expounded on the health benefits of sorrel because of its high antioxidant content. Sorrel has been credited for its cancer reducing properties. It has also been linked to a significant decline in cholesterol levels.
So, with all the good things sorrel can do for your body and its rich flavourful taste, sorrel is a must not just for the holidays but as much as possible through the year. ¡Salud!
Other Blog Posts In The Jamaican Christmas Series