Have You Heard about Caribbean Sorrel?
- By Joanne Crossley
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Sorrel may not be as well known a 'superfood' as acai berries or papaya are right now, but its health benefits are broad. Grown across the Caribbean, sorrel is also known as roselle, red sorrel and Indian sorrel. The annual plant has a woody flavour and richly coloured purple-red leaves. It comes from the hibiscus family, grows up to six feet tall and is very hardy. The flowers are creamy in colour with thick, red outer sepals and calyx, which are used for cooking in many Caribbean cuisines.
Sorrel should not be confused with the other herb called sorrel, which is broad-leaved and green. Sorrel is often used in salads and to add herbal flavour. Conversely, sorrel is a popular ingredient in cordials, punches, teas and jams. It is especially known for being made into a delicious, festive drink at Christmas time across the Caribbean.
Why Sorrel is so good
Sorrel is fast becoming a must-have ingredient for any health-conscious foodie. As well as containing several vitamins and minerals, it has been found to support multiple aspects of health and wellbeing in other key ways.
Here are a few health benefits:
1. Contains Flavonoids
This group of compounds found naturally in plants act as powerful antioxidants that can help the body fight free radicals and diseases. Flavonoids are also what give sorrel its rich, red colour. Some research suggests that these flavonoids can also help in the fight against cancer by killing certain types of cancer cells in the body. They can also act as an anti-inflammatory against such conditions as eczema and rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Relieve From Ailments and Coughs
Sorrel can help to relieve several minor ailments, including coughs. The leaves can also be made into a poultice to help draw out the toxins inside abscesses and boils. It can also help boost the body’s immune system due to its high vitamin C content. Sorrel also contains lots of iron, which helps stave off anaemia and improves circulation by boosting red blood cell production. It can lower high fevers too.
3· Healthy Heart
Other studies show that ingesting sorrel regularly can help lower the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels and helping to prevent arteries from becoming clogged up. Its strong antioxidants also contribute to the slowing or preventing of cardiovascular disease.
3. Weight Watching
Drinking sorrel beverages could also help you lose weight when consumed as part of a healthy diet. There is an acid contained in sorrel that helps the body break down excess starches and sugars and so aid healthy digestion. This, combined with the proven value of increasing intake of vegetables, can really help with a commitment to eating a healthy, ‘greener’ diet.
4. Menstrual Cramps and Constipation
Sorrel helps relieve both menstrual cramping pains and discomfort caused by constipation. It has diuretic properties to assist with the latter and helps with the former when you drink tea made from the leaves a few days before your period starts. It works by calming the stomach and soothing the area where the cramps are causing pain.
How to use Sorrel in food and drinks
A traditional method of using sorrel is in a hot, comforting tea. Dried hibiscus blossoms are added to a cup along with sugar to taste. Boiling water is added and the blossoms are left to steep. The tea can be drunk hot, or cooled and served with ice.
Another popular way to enjoy sorrel is to prepare it as a festive favourite beverage.
To make it, combine sorrel with ginger, sugar wine or rum (optional), water and pimento grains. Wash the sorrel and place in stainless steel container. Add the grated ginger and pimento grains. Steep with boiling water and leave to stand. Sweeten and add wine to taste and leave to cool. Serve with ice cubes for a refreshing, aromatic drink.