Monday, 4 April 2011

The Great Rosella Harvest

Before starting let me clarify that I am harvesting fruit not birds so do not fret my feathered friends.

I grew up in New Zealand so Rosella bushes are not something I have any experience with.  I became acquainted with the lovely thing that is Rosella jam at my mother in laws, so when I spied a packet of seeds at my local hardware store last year I decided to have a go at growing Rosella's.
I had no idea what to expect from a Rosella plant other that the brief description on the back of the seed packet.  So I planted 5 seeds out at the back of the pumpkin patch and waited to see what would happen.  Well low and behold they grew, and grew well.  Some branches eventually reaching a height of up to 1.8m and are laden with fruit.  Not bad for the out lay of 1 packet of seeds of which I only used 5.

Rosella Bushes at the back of the Pumpkin Patch
So what are Rosella's some of you may ask.

Rosella's are a type of Hibiscus (Hibiscus Sabdariffa) and if you have ever seen something like herbal tea labeled as including Wild Hibiscus then what it actually contains is Rosella.
Rosella's like to be grown in the Subtropics to tropics in areas with high rainfall.  After the wet start to the year we have had here in South East Queensland this is probably why mine have done so well.
The 5 fleshy outside petal like part of the fruit called a calyx is used for making jams, preserves and cordials amongst other things but is not eaten as a fruit due to the sharp taste.  I have sampled raw Rosella's and I liken it to the same sort of taste you get from Rhubarb, another plant you only eat cooked.
Rosella's produce a bud that looks similar to the fruit, it produces a lovely Hibiscus type flower which is then followed by the fruit.
Rosella Fruit
So back to my Rosella's. 
I have grown them apparently quite successfully, I have found recipes on how to use them, yum yum can't wait. 
But do you think I can find anywhere that tells me when and how to harvest them. No.

So I trawl the net hoping for an answer, nope more recipes and growing techniques. 
I hunt through old gardening and cook books hoping for the answer still nothing. 
So I call my mother in law hoping she may have grown them or know someone who does.  Nope she has never grown them either.
But then she comes up with the goods.
In one of her garden books "The Australian Gardening Encyclopedia" the answer is found.

"The heads can be harvested about 3 weeks after flowering.  Once harvesting has begun collect the heads every week so that the fruit is not fully mature and woody."

Hooray the Great Rosella Harvest can begin.
So out to the garden I go, kitchen scissors in had and begin to harvest the Rosella's I guess to be about 3 weeks after flowering.  This really is a guess but when I peel the Calyx's (beware they stain you fingers and although it came off I had only peeled 1/2 a doz) I know I am correct in my timing.  Before finding the information about harvesting 3 weeks after flowering the only information I could find was to pick while the seed pod was still green.
These are some of the Rosella's before and after peeling
So far I have picked a bowl full of Rosella's and I will peel all of these to see how much usable fruit I come up with.  Once I see how much fruit I have I will look at what I can make.  
Let the peeling begin
I have already found recipes for jam, chutney and cordial and have attached some links below, but I plan to see what else is out there.  I suspect there will be many more Rosella's to come as when I was snipping of some of the ripe Rosella's there were little baby ones forming next to them.
This should work out well for me as in a few weeks it is the local country show and there is a pavilion category for Rosella's which I just might enter.
But for now it is back to peeling Rosella's.



  1. Oh they look great, but I am nervous now about getting the timing right! How are you going to keep the ones you've harvested while waiting for the little ones to mature? Are you going to freeze them? I am thinking that I *might* just have enough for a small jar of jam, perhaps I could mix it with another fruit from the garden???

    Good on your for doing so well, mine are not nearly so tall as yours, hopefully I will do better next time.


  2. I am gutted that I may never be able to grow such a lovely plant! I have never had rosella jam or chutney, but it sounds divine!

    ..and fantastic pumpkin patch you have there.

  3. Hi Ali
    Most Rosella jam I have seen in the shops is a blend of rosellas and other fruits so I think mixing them would be great. At the moment I have peeled a few and left the rest whole and put them in the fridge to see how they last, but yes I think I will try a few in the freezer too to see what happens to each group and which keep better.

  4. I LOVE ROSELLA JAM, I haven't grown any since I've been out her because I just completely forgot about them!! I have managed to get a packet and I will be growing for next season. HEAPS AND HEAPS. I grew a heap of bushes many years ago and the Jam is just so good. It's sad when you run out...A bit of work involved but so worth it. You can always mix with Choko, which are also in season, Choko can substitute anything, and easy to grow as well. Looks like you got them at the right time. Well done, I'm so Jealous!
    P.S Let me know if you need any SUGAR!

  5. Amazing!!

    I am truly amazed that you got one huge bowl of rosellas out of 5 seeds. They look so good. I wish you all the best with the jam making.


  6. Fiona, I too am planning on growing Rosella, I think I need to plant them around September....I hope to freeze mine as I pick them, so I can make a huge pressure still need to get them to grow.

  7. Thank you for this information! I love in southern Texas and Sadly it will be around 6C over night in a few days and we have not began to flower. There are buds all over my 2.5 meter plants! at least I know I can grow them now. Thank you so much for the information! *big hug*

  8. Great timing that you linked to this post, I am waiting impatiently for mine to fruit, but you didn't pick yours until April (from the date of the post), so maybe I have a bit of time left. I want to dry them to add to tea, and maybe make some cordial. I don't have 4 plants growing, this is my first time growing them, so it will be an experiment.

  9. I grow Rosella for my Congolese foster daughter who eats the leaves as a green vegetable. She prepares it like spinach and it is high in vitamins and minerals.

    1. The leaves are also very sweet. I had a nibble while checking on the progress of my buds.

  10. I am wondering why you are not using the small 'spikey' bits you have left on the green seed. I slip these off as I take of the larger red leaves for my jam and syrup. I find most of the flavour is in the little bits. I dry the larger leaves for tea.

  11. This is our 2nd season of growing rosella. With only 5 plants in this year I picked last week & made 20 assorted sized jars of jam. Still more picking to do in another week or so.
    I have kept the pods to dry out. Plan to propagate later this year & hopefully have another good harvest. I will pick again next week & have a go at drying it out for tea.
    I have so many pods so if anybody would like seeds sent to them please email me.

  12. I came across a very good tip the other day for parting the red part from the buds. You just push an apple corer through and - bingo they are separated. I am going to get heaps from omly two bushes when I harvest mone shortly. This is the second time that I have tried to grow them but this time I only put in two bushes, they are about 150 centermetres tall and are loaded.

  13. I have just picked my second batch for the year with a few flowers still coming on. We initially found a wild plant growing about 300km south of Darwin. We planted it and low and behold, bucket loads of rosella. They self seed each year so we usually have to pull lots of the plants out. Cordial done. Still have some rosella jam so this time I am drying them for later use. I like to cook them with apples - very similar to apple and rhubarb. Also stewed rosella makes a great side dish with meat. Rosella are a fabulous natural medicine - they decrease blood pressure very quickly plus they are rich in anthocyanins - a potent antioxidant.Enjoy

  14. Is this safe for dogs to eat??


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