Roselle, botanical name Hibiscus sabdariffa, better known as Ambadi or Gongura in India, is a species of Hibiscus that is said to have originated from West Africa. This annual or perennial herb is a woody shrub like plant that may grow up to 2–2.5 meters in height. The leaves are three lobed, long, and arranged alternately on the stems. It was cultivated for the production of bast fiber, but now increasingly its leaves and flowers are a culinary delight in most parts of the world.
Ambadi is cultivated for a wide variety of uses and we are told there are actually very many other uses of the plant, besides being grown for culinary purposes. It is primarily grown for use in recipes because of its sharp, tangy taste. Besides, it also offers a number of health benefits. Known by other names like common sorrel, spinach dock, and narrow-leaved dock, even the roots stretching deep into the ground offer medicinal uses.
Red flowers blooming on the plant appear very attractive. The flowers are 8–10 cm in diameter and have a stout fleshy calyx at the base and take about six months to mature. The red calyces of the plant are also used as food colorings, besides being used in varied recipes. The green leaves are used like a tangy version of spinach and recipes from all corners abide.
In our parts the Ambadi leaves are mixed with green chillies, salt, and some garlic to prepare chutney which is served with traditional Jowar or Bajra roti. So also a dry vegetable is prepared from Ambadi leaves. Another recipe has the leaves steamed with lentils and cooked with dal. Another unique dish is prepared by mixing fried leaves with spices and made into a gongura pacchadi, the most famous dish of Andhra cuisine.
Best of all is the cool drink or sharbat made from flowers of Ambadi. It is prepared by boiling dried petals of the flowers infused in hot water for 8 to 10 minutes or until the water turns red. To this is added sugar and the drink is served chilled. The drink is one of the most inexpensive beverages common during summer time. It is very popular in rural areas of Maharashtra.
The health benefits of Ambadi include its ability to boost eyesight, slow the aging process, reduce certain skin infections, strengthen the immune system, improve digestion, build strong bones, increase circulation, increase energy levels, help prevent cancer, lower blood pressure, increase appetite, protect against diabetes, strengthen heart health, and improve the kidney health.
HERD Organic Farms is growing organic Ambadi. Given below is the nutritional value of Ambadi:
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz) / Energy 205 kJ (49 kcal) / Carbohydrates 11.31 g / Fat 0.64 g / Protein 0.96 g
Vitamins – Vitamin A equiv. (2%) 14 mg / Thiamine (B1) (1%) 0.011 mg / Riboflavin (B2) (2%) 0.028 mg / Niacin (B3) (2%) 0.31 mg / Vitamin C (14%) 12 mg
Minerals – Calcium (22%) 215 mg / Iron (11%) 1.48 mg / Magnesium (14%) 51 mg / Phosphorus (5%) 37 mg / Potassium (4%) 208 mg / Sodium 6 mg