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Red Sorrel

Red Sorrel, an annual plant, is a member of the mallow family. It is very sensitive to frost and not cold hardy at all. It has reddish stems and green leaves. It flowers for a day with red flowers, then the petals drop off, leaving behind seed pods about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long (5 to 7.5 cm.) The seed pods are referred to as the fruit.

The fruit needs to be harvested about 3 weeks after the plant flowered, while the fruit pods are still crisp, tender, plump and juicy. They will turn woody if on the plant too much past that.

The fruit is bright red and slightly tart. Some varieties are less tart than others.

The fruit is sold fresh or dried. Fresh will be available in ethnic markets.

Red Sorrel is grown around the world. It is popular in the Caribbean, especially in desserts and to make wines and other beverages from. It can be used to colour and flavour some rums. Fresh leaves of the plant are eaten in salads and as a potherb.

Dried Red Sorrel fruit is used as the base for many commercial herbal teas. Dried from Sudan is preferred over that from Asia, as it is less tart and gives a reddish hue in teas rather than purple.


Per 100g (seed pods): 49 calories, 1.9g protein, .1g fat, 12.3g carbohydrate, 14mg ascorbic acid

Per 100g (leaves): 43 calories, 3.3g protein, .3g fat, 9.2g carbohydrate, 54mg ascorbic acid

History Notes

Red Sorrel is native to South-East Asia. It was introduced into North America in the late 1800s.

It was popular in Florida as a substitute for cranberries in preserves and baked goods. It declined in popularity throughout the United States in the 1950s as real cranberry producers in the north stepped up production and distribution.

Language Notes

This is another one of those unhelpful names. The taste of the fruit reminded people of the herb, French Sorrel, and thus the name, even though there is no actual relation.

See also:

Hard Fruit

Apples; Apricots; Avocado; Citrus Fruit; Grape Kiwis; Guava Fruit; Hard Fruit; Kiwis; Mangos; Maypop Fruit; Medlars; Melons; Nectarines; Passion Fruit; Peaches; Pears; Pineapples; Plums; Pomegranates; Quinces; Red Sorrel; Rose Hips; Sapote; Star Fruit; True Service Fruit

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Also called:

Cabitutu; Florida Cranberry; Indian Sorrel; Jamaican Sorrel; Karkade; Lemon-Bush; Queensland Jelly Plant; Roselle; Sour-Sour; Vinuela; Hibiscus sabdariffa rosella (Scientific Name); Oseille de guinée (French)


Oulton, Randal. "Red Sorrel." CooksInfo.com. Published 28 February 2004; revised 18 September 2005. Web. Accessed 03/18/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/red-sorrel>.

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