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Roselle leaves are comprised of 3 to 5 deep, fanning lobes with a slender and elongated appearance, averaging 8 to 15 centimeters in length. The leaves are arranged in an alternate formation along smooth, cylindrical, maroon stems, and each leaf lobe has a lanceolate shape with toothed margins and pointed tips. The leaves are dark green on the top and light green on the underside, covered in prominent red-green veining, and have a pliable, floppy nature. Roselle leaves emit a faint grassy aroma and are delicate, easily bruising, tearing, and discoloring. The leaves also have a tender, crisp, and succulent consistency combined with a mucilaginous texture. Roselle leaves have a tart, tangy, and sour flavor with vegetal, bright, and acidic nuances.
Roselle leaves are available in the summer.
Roselle leaves, botanically classified as Hibiscus sabdariffa, grow on an herbaceous subshrub reaching 2 to 2.5 meters in height, belonging to the Malvaceae family. The plants are a type of hibiscus that thrives in tropical to subtropical regions worldwide and is utilized as a landscape ornamental for its distinct appearance. Roselle plants also have edible leaves, calyces, seeds, and roots, traditionally incorporated into medicinal and culinary practices, especially in Southeast Asia and Africa. The plants are mainly known for their brightly colored, ruby calyces, but the leaves are also a nutritional green consumed raw or cooked, known as Asian Sour leaf, Rosella in Indonesia and Australia, Hibiscus leaves in Malaysia, Labog and Guragod in the Philippines, and Gongura, Chukor, Pitwa, Pundi, and Mathipuli in India. Roselle leaves have a sour and tangy flavor typically used to brighten savory recipes and are added to salads, curries, soups, and seafood dishes.
Roselle leaves are a source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract and have been used in India in Ayurveda as a natural remedy for digestive issues. The leaves also provide vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation, vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, and other nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, and iron. In Southeast Asia, the leaves are made into tonics to soothe sore throats, consumed as a diuretic, or crushed and applied topically to relieve cracks, ulcers, and boils on the skin.
Roselle leaves have a tart, vegetal, and sour flavor well suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The leaves can be consumed raw and are often added to salads as a bright flavoring. Roselle leaves can also be lightly torn, chopped, or sliced and stirred into soups, cooked into vegetable side dishes, or sauteed into rice-based dishes. It is important to note that Roselle leaves will reduce in volume when cooked, so care should be taken to add the correct amount for desired texture and flavor. Roselle leaves are customarily added to curries in India and complement flavors found in pork, poultry, goat, and mutton curries. The leaves are also combined with garlic, chile peppers, and salt to create a chutney served with flatbread, cooked with lentils, mixed into dals, or pickled as a tangy condiment. In Southeast Asia, Roselle leaves are often cooked into seafood recipes as the sour flavor blends with the marine-like nuances within the dish. Roselle leaves pair well with aromatics such as chile peppers, garlic, onions, shallots, and tamarind, tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, spices including turmeric, curry, cumin, and cardamom, and meats such as beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and goat. Whole, unwashed Roselle leaves will keep up to one week when stored loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator.
Roselle leaves are a staple green in Burmese cuisine. The sour leaves are known as Chin Baung in Burmese and grow naturally throughout Burma, also recognized as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, in the country’s monsoonal, humid climate. Burmese cuisine is heavily influenced by the cuisines of its neighboring countries, including India, Thailand, Laos, and Bangladesh. In Burma, Roselle leaves are traditionally incorporated into salads, curries, noodles, rice, and stir-fries and are considered everyday vegetables. One of the most popular dishes using Roselle leaves is a fish-based recipe frying the leaves in a mixture of fish sauce, dried shrimp, aromatics, shrimp paste, chile peppers, bamboo shoots, and spices. The leaves are also simmered in a soup using a prawn stock base, creating a light, fragrant dish.
Roselle leaves are native to Asia, specifically parts of Malaysia and India, and grow wild in tropical to subtropical climates. Much of the history of the plant is unknown, but experts believe the subshrub was transported to Africa sometime in the Early Ages. Over time, Roselle plants were spread to tropical, subtropical, to temperate regions worldwide and were recorded by botanists in Java by the late 17th century and in areas of the New World in the 18th and 19th centuries. Roselle was planted in Florida in the 1890s and was commercially cultivated by 1903. Today Roselle plants are found worldwide and are commercially grown on a small scale, found wild, or planted in home gardens. The plants are widely found throughout Southeast Asia and are also a common culinary ingredient in West Africa and India. When in season, Roselle leaves are sold through local wet markets. The Roselle leaves featured in the photograph above were sourced through Singapore's Geylang Serai Market and Food Center.
Recipes that include Roselle Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Saffron Trail||GONGURA PAPPU | GONGURA DAL | LENTILS WITH ROSELLE GREENS|