Flor de Jamaica: From garden to glass

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Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Roselle or Flor de Jamaica, is a many-branched shrub that grows well in South Texas. Although native to south Africa, this hibiscus is found in subtropical and tropical gardens around the globe and is used both as a garden ornamental and an important medicinal tea.

The plants perform best in full sun. Normally considered an annual, this hibiscus can live several years in our gardens, if we do not experience freezing temperatures for any length of time. This shrub does best in raised beds that are well mulched to retain moisture. They require a regular watering schedule. Depending on the soil type and drainage, a weekly soaking should be adequate during the summer. Propagation can be successful by seed or by cuttings. Hibiscus sabdariffa can form a dense hedge and should be planted 3 to 4 feet apart for best coverage.

The red calyces, under the flower, is the part that is harvested for drying and making into a juice or tea. This drink is made in many countries ranging from the tropical areas of Africa, across South America and northward to Central America and Mexico and in most of the orient. It is commercially grown in India and in China for use as a tea. In some countries, the juice is further reduced into sauces, jellies, wines and pies.

Hibiscus tea, also known as Roselle, is a refreshing drink that has been shown to lower blood pressure when consumed three times a day. (Courtesy photo)

The juice or tea of Hibiscus sabdariffa has been shown to be high in the antioxidant, vitamin C, as well as multiple beneficial minerals. This tea has been used in several countries for its medicinal effects as a mild diuretic and to relieve digestive issues. In recent years, several studies have shown that it is effective in reducing blood pressure, when consumed three times a day. More studies are in the works on other aspects, but the tea’s effect on blood pressure is certainly hopeful.

From garden to glass, you can have a drink of Jamaica tea when you purchase locally grown dried calyes for making tea Saturday mornings at the Farmers Market in Firemen’s Park under a large covered area next to Town Lake, at 201 N. First St. in McAllen, just off Business 83. The market features vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, and fruits, all grown locally, as well as grass fed beef, spring lamb, eggs, and a full array of baked goods. The market is open from 9 a.m. to noon And, beginning June 1, hours will begin at 8:30 a.m. and run until 11:30 a.m.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist who writes about plants that grow well in South Texas. You can follow her on Facebook.