Cranberry Hibiscus - African rosemallow, false roselle

Sour tasting "acetosella"

Cranberry hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) is of the genus Hibiscus L. or rosemallow. The word acetosella is derived from an old name for sorrel (Oxalis) which comes from the sour taste experienced when eating the young leaves of the plant.

The plant was probably first found growing around African villages in the southern DR Congo-Angola-Zambia region. The crop was brought to Brazil and South-East Asia where it was most likely used as sustenance for slaves. It is now considered more popular in Brazil than its original location in Africa, where it is now regularly cultivated and eaten as a spinach-like green

Perennial shrub in the tropics

Hibiscus acetosella is also known colloquially as African rosemallow, false roselle, maroon mallow, cranberry hibiscus, red leaved hibiscus, and red shield hibiscus. It is one of the 200–300 species that are seen in sub-tropic and tropic regions. Cranberry hibiscus is a member of a perennial group known as hardy hibiscus. In contrast to the tropical hibiscus, hardy hibiscus can tolerate colder conditions, are more vigorous, longer lasting, and have larger flowers. Hibiscus acetosella is often regarded as a perennial to zone 8–11. During one season, the plant can grow 90–170 cm (3–5 feet) tall and 75 cm (30 inches) wide as a shrub-subshrub.

Leaves the size of a child's hand

The foliage of cranberry hibiscus is similar to that of the Japanese maple. Leaves of the plant are generally the size of a small child's hand, about 10×10 cm. The cranberry hibiscus is bisexual and is thought to be self-pollinating. It produces seeds that are reniform and dark brown with dimensions of 3 mm.

Genetics protect against nematodes

Hibiscus acetosella is an allotetraploid with a genome composition of AABB. It is often used to transfer genetic resistance to root-knot nematodes with compatible Hibiscus species. Cranberry hibiscus is often grown after tomatoes and potatoes and related species of which are not resistant to nematodes.

Grow in oval form by pruning

Seeds germinate easily within 3–4 days in a container but tend to grow rapidly. Cranberry hibiscus propagates well with cuttings, which will take root in soil or water. The plant can be maintained in an oval form by pinching or cutting it back during the summer. Otherwise, it will have one dominant stem.

Soak cranberry hibiscus seeds overnight before sowing. Push the seeds into the potting mix to a depth of 1/4 inch. Water lightly daily until the seeds sprout and have two true leaves.

Edible perennial in tropics

Cranberry hibiscus is known for its sour or tart young leaves which are commonly used as a vegetable, either raw or cooked. In South America, the leaves are used sparingly in salads and stir-fries. Leaves are eaten in small quantities due to acid content and because they are mucilaginous.

Cranberry hibiscus leaves also contribute to the d├ęcor of various dishes since they retain their color after being cooked.

In Central America the flowers are combined with ice, sugar, lemon, or lime juice and water to make a purple lemonade.

References:

Hibiscus acetosella - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://bit.ly/1ud9rxp
Cranberry Hibiscus « Edible Plant Project http://bit.ly/1ud9EAy
How to Grow Cranberry Hibiscus | Home Guides | SF Gate http://bit.ly/1ud9N70
False Roselle | Eat The Weeds and other things, too http://bit.ly/1ud9VUf

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