In Production Today – April 2012

Rosella, Hibiscus sabdariffa

Rosella, Hibiscus sabdariffa

I’m getting fewer summer crops, but my Asian greens are growing very fast indeed. Now that the nights are cooling down, I’ve begun sowing early winter crops, like salad vegetables and tomatoes.

My native Midyim (Austromyrtus dulcis, aka Midgen Berry) has only a few fruit this year. They’ve got introduced Myrtle rust, a debilitating disease that threatens all plants in the Myrtaceae family, both wild and cultivated.

On the other hand, I’ve had sufficient ‘buds’ from my rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa) to be able to dry and use them to make ‘Sudan tea’ and rosella jam. Technically, the ‘bud’ is the calyx. The seed and seed pod are an acquired taste. Rosella buds are rich in cancer-fighting anthocyanins. Wikipedia says that Sudan tea soothes coughs, and rosella can be used to make wine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In Africa, dried flowers are made into tea. Here in Australia, since the calyx contains adequate amounts of pectin, which makes jam ‘set’, our famous rosella jam can be made simply by boiling them with sugar and water.

Rosella leaves can also be used to make a tart-tasting spinach curry. Rosella leaves are a key ingredient in fish and rice curry (Senegal), and they are probably the most widely eaten leaf vegetable in Burma. Heated leaves can be applied to cracked and split skin to assist healing. That’s quite a few kitchen experiments from one crop.

Rosella needs a long, warm summer, all day sun, shelter and a soil temperature of 21C. They thrived during the past two wet summers in SE Qld. To prevent stunting and to encourage fruiting, rosella needs regular watering in dry weather.

In Victoria, start rosella off indoors, or in an igloo. When planting them out in Victoria, I suggest spreading a thin surface mulch of cow or sheep manure, or mushroom compost. Their dark colour absorbs warmth from sunshine, encouraging establishment.

I tried Belinda Moore’s jam recipe, it’s by far the simplest.

My variation on her recipe uses less water and sugar:

  • 1 kg buds, 0.5 litre water, 1 kg organic raw sugar.
  • Remove seed pods and compost.
  • Rehydrate buds, soaking them in cold water for ten minutes.
  • Put buds in saucepan, add water, cover, and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add sugar, gently simmer – uncovered – for 20 minutes.
  • If the jam doesn’t set, simmer for a while longer – this helps evaporate any excess water.
  • Hide jam. It’s the only way you’ll get to taste it!

Please note: only crops marked with an asterisk * are available in quantity… I only have 300 sq metres in production…

Edible roots
Arrowroot, Canna edulis
* Cocoyam, Xanthosoma saggitifolia
Ginger, Zingiber officinale
Galangal, Alpinia galanga
Turmeric, Curcuma domestica
Golden sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’
Spring or Welsh onion, Allium fistulosum ‘Red Legs’
Spring or Welsh onion, Allium fistulosum
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
Aerial potato, Dioscorea bulbifera
Winged yam, Dioscorea alata

Edible shoots
Luffa shoot tips, Luffa cylindrica
Pumpkin shoot tips, Cucurbita moschata ‘Jap’

Edible shoots and leaves
Jute, aka Egyptian spinach, Corchorus olitorius
Celery stem taro, aka Tahitian spinach, Alocasia esculenta
Chinese celery, aka smallage, Apium graveolens
Welsh onion, aka spring onion, scallion, Allium fistulosum
Purslane, Portulaca oleracea
Golden sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’
Coriander, Coriandrum sativum
Shungiku, aka edible chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum coronarium
Lebanese cress, Aethionema coridifolium

Edible seeds
False cardamom, Alpinia nutans
Coriander, Coriandrum sativum
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus gangeticus

Edible leaves
Jute, aka Egyptian spinach, Corchorus olitorius
Arrowroot, Canna edulis
Huauzontle, Chenopodium berlandieri
Green amaranth, Amaranthus viridis
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus tricolor ‘Flying Colours’
Chinese spinach, Amaranthus ‘Mekong Red’
Parsley, Petroselenium crispum ‘Triple Curled’
Native lemongrass, Cymbopogon ambiguus
Native mint, Mentha satureioides
Golden sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’
Curry leaf, Murraya koenigii
* False cardamom, Alpinia nutans
Moroccan mint, Mentha spicata ‘Nana’
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Radicchio, Cichorium intybus
Sacred basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum
Cassava, Manihot esculentum
Variegated cassava, Manihot esculentum ‘Variegatum’
Vietnamese mint, Persicaria odorata
Variegated four seasons herb, Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’
Lemongrass, Cymbopogon flexuosus
Lovage, Levisticum officinale
Phillip Island hibiscus, Hibiscus insularis
* Aloe vera
Aptenia cordifolia
Chaplu, Piper sarmentosum
Dwarf rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Benenden Blue’
Fastigiate rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’
Ceylon spinach, Basella alba
Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa var. chinensis
Mizuna Mixed, Brassica juncea var. japonica
Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa var. pekinensis ‘Tokyo Bekana’
Pak Choi, Brassica rapa var. chinensis group ‘Chokito’
Tatsoi, Brassica narinosus
Golden oregano, Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’
Pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata ‘Jap’
Rosella, Hibiscus sabdariffa

Edible flowers
Luffa, Luffa cylindrica
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’
Pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata ‘Jap’
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
Aptenia cordifolia
Marigold, Tagetes patula ‘Himalayan’
Turmeric, Curcuma longa
Rosella, Hibiscus sabdariffa

Edible buds
Rosella, Hibiscus sabdariffa

Fruit
Kaffir lime, Citrus hystrix
Lime, Citrus latifolia
Luffa, Luffa cylindrica
Naranjilla, Solanum quitoense
Mouse melon, Melothria scabra
Pawpaw, Carica papaya
West Indian gherkin, Cucumis anguria
Midyim, Austromyrtus dulcis (not a good crop: plants infected with introduced Myrtle rust)
Green banana, Musa x sapientum ‘Bluggoe’

Spice
Cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Cayenne’
Chilli, Capsicum annuum ‘Siam Gold’

Medicinal
Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus
Bulbine frutescens
* Aloe vera

Jerry Coleby-Williams
6th April 2012