|Sorrel plants with Saint Lucia's iconic Gros Piton in the background|
Red-The Colour of Christmas
How did the colour red become the accepted colour for Christmas? My theory is that Sorrel (local name: Lozèy) is in season at this time. As the red calyces begin to develop, so does the seasonal cheer. Crops of sorrel cannot be grown throughout the year. The plant is photoperiodic and thrives in the shorter days towards the end of the year. Planted in June, the plants flower in September/October with the harvest due date in November/December. The life of the plant may extend to January/February.
|Sorrel on branches|
Sorrel-The Drink of Christmas
|Detached seed pod and calyx|
Christmas celebrations in Saint Lucia would not be complete without a sorrel drink. In fact, most if not all local Christmas songs mention it in their lyrics. It is especially important to have something cool and refreshing to drink to pass our sunshine Christmas. The calyces are harvested by cutting in a circular motion around the base of the seed pod and lifting the calyces off. Be wary of tiny, prickly bristles which get stuck into your fingers and hands in general. I generally keep my fingers clear of them or wear something protective. To avoid the prickles altogether, a purchase of ready-cut calyces can be made at the local market or supermarket.
Recently I learned that sorrel juice can be drawn by steeping it for a few weeks in water at room temperature to preserve the nutritional content. Some recipes instruct boiling the calyces. I am somewhere in the middle. My sorrel drink recipe is made special by infusing it with spices such as cinnamon, ginger and dill. I pour hot water over the calyces and spices and allow to steep overnight. I prefer my sorrel drink very concentrated. There is no need to be sparing on something in such abundance, so delicious and so healthy. After the mixture has been drained, sugar is added to taste. The drink is best served cold.
Dried calyces can be dried and stored so that you may continue to enjoy the joy of Christmas throughout the year.
As much as it is a pleasure to make, it is a pleasure to drink. If you will be having some, do enjoy. And for my friends who will not have the privilege, I will keep you in my thoughts. Do share your own Christmas special traditions.
Purdue University: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/roselle.html
Plants of Saint Lucia: http://www.saintlucianplants.com/cultivated/hibisabd/hibisabd.html