13 Nov2008


I spotted these unusual looking fruit or blooms at the Herbana Farms table at the Salcedo market the morning I showed Bobby Chinn around for his television series “World Cafe Asia.” When I picked one up, he automatically asked me what they were, and all I could say was, “I have no clue whatsoever.” Gil Carandang wasn’t around, and the lady at the table explained they were four souring dishes or broths, but I didn’t catch their name and I have never ever seen them before. Nevertheless, I took some home to photograph and despite the fact that I can’t tell you anything about them… So if you know what they are, and what they are called, please leave me a comment so I can solve the mystery of the sour prickly martian like fruit… Thanks!




  1. Maria Clara says:

    One of the many reasons, I am a regular in your quarter is getting a glimpse at stuff I have not seen in my life before. They look creepy though and I will take the word of the lady attendant – they contained a potent souring agent.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 5:28 am


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  3. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Wish I could help. Let’s see if someone knows. Interesting.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 6:52 am

  4. Ailene says:

    I think the name starts with an R, but for the life of me I cannot remember. I think I’ve had it in jam form a long time ago. I’ll keep searching.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 7:00 am

  5. Tricia says:

    Looks like a relative of the dragon fruit to me

    Nov 13, 2008 | 7:18 am

  6. betty q. says:

    MM, would you mind if I print a picture of it just for the purpose of bringing it to Van Deusen Botanical Gardens or UBC Botanical to have it identified?

    Kurzhaar…as a botanist, maybe you could shed some light!

    Nov 13, 2008 | 7:42 am

  7. Mila says:

    They are dried hibiscus flowers! I’ve eaten them candied and in soups (Thailand).

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:01 am

  8. cheesehead says:

    I will go along with Mila. I think they are dried hibiscus flowers. They sometimes have them in Trader Joe’s. They open up nicely when placed in hot tea. Very pretty.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:14 am

  9. michelle h. says:

    Thank you Mila :) This has been bugging me since I saw the photo a couple of hours ago…. I remember it from living in Bangkok ! I could recall the taste but not the name….

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:15 am

  10. diday says:

    I agree with Tricia, it could be a relative of the Dragon Fruit. The dragon fruit is sweet but has a soapy taste and is now very popular in Australia.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:45 am

  11. Marketman says:

    Mila, they weren’t dried, quite fresh actually, but I could be wrong because they sure look like dried hibiscus photos on the internet… and I would have remembered it if they said hibiscus… gosh, this is going to bug me until I get back to Gil Carandang to ask…

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:47 am

  12. millet says:

    looks like hibiscus, the kind from which jam is made. or giant rose hips.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:54 am

  13. millet says:

    or maybe roselle? (i think that’s similar to hibiscus, or is a variety of hibiscus)

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:56 am

  14. jen 0828 says:

    I remember this small fruits in my growing up years in Pangasinan. My lola Anday has this plant which she called Rosel..(gosh, i don’t even know if my spelling is right.)She makes jelly and juice out of this….

    Nov 13, 2008 | 9:00 am

  15. diday says:

    an officemate said it is a Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)flower.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 9:09 am

  16. Marketman says:

    Marketman, okay, I think the mystery is resolved… Roselle it seems to be, and yes, Mila you are right, it is a type of hibiscus and here is an interesting quote from the Purdue University website:

    In 1904, Wester acquired seeds from Mr. W.A. Hobbs of Coconut Grove and planted them at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Subtropical Garden in Miami. He was enthusiastic about roselle’s potential as a southern substitute for the cranberry. In 1907, he stated that the fresh calyces were being sold by the quart in South Florida markets. He introduced 3 edible cultivars into the Philippines in 1905. In 1920, he declared: “No plant that has ever been brought into the Philippines is more at home and few grow with so little care as the roselle, or are so productive. Still, like so many other new introductions, the roselle has been slow to gain hold in the popular taste though here and there it is now found in the provincial markets. “

    Thanks everyone, I knew you would all be able to collectively figure this out… :) And it is so BIZARRE that it is considered a potential substitute for cranberry after I JUST did a post on cranberries a day or two before!

    Nov 13, 2008 | 9:27 am

  17. millet says:

    yes, looks like roselle, alright. i had fresh roselle juice everyday in bangkok, very refreshing. it’s not so much the juice but the decoction, but i’m not sure if they use it fresh or dried.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 9:28 am

  18. joey says:

    Firstly, I think they are gorgeous! I love their alien-y look! Secondly, I’m glad I visited this post when the answer to what it is was already settled! Heehee :) MM, please let us know if you ever use them in anything!

    Nov 13, 2008 | 10:11 am

  19. miles says:

    i remember seeing an episode on tv about jamaican food and the roselle was mentioned as being used for teas and jams there. my mother in law remembers having rosel tea in negros when she was a child.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 10:45 am

  20. betty q. says:

    MM. …when you do get a chance to see Mr. Carandang…just a suggestion…I don’t have a clue as to how he sets up his tindahan but maybe whoever is minding the stall…could write maybe on a piece of cartolina what he/she is selling?…would save her a loooot of saying the same thing to a gazillion customers!

    Millet…might want to limit your roselle juice….has laxative properties, I think!

    Nov 13, 2008 | 11:02 am

  21. Maki says:

    I was guessing it was a dragon fruit, but thanks to the people above… mentioning the real name of that fruit… i mean herb…

    but… what does it taste?

    Nov 13, 2008 | 12:02 pm

  22. Maki says:

    Okay… its sour… LOL

    Nov 13, 2008 | 12:04 pm

  23. natie says:

    I wish my Nanay were still around so I could ask her–her Masteral thesis was on souring agents found in west visayas, and I remember ditinctly Roselle..but what I remember are the leaves with that same color. An old book-bound copy of her thesis is in Iloilo…

    Nov 13, 2008 | 12:30 pm

  24. evelinago says:

    Hello MM

    It might be the same hibiscus flower that you can put in a glass of champagne. It has a rich raspberry and rhubarb flavor.

    Go to this site http://www.wildhibiscus.com

    Nov 13, 2008 | 12:32 pm

  25. Michael says:

    Karkade is a sweetened red infusion of these flowers. They might have some kind of hypnotic quality because shop owners in Egypt invariably offer the drink to customers, I suspect to weaken their bargaining skills. It worked for us!

    Nov 13, 2008 | 12:33 pm

  26. Maki says:

    Wow… I really learn a lot today… It seems like a biology class here

    Nov 13, 2008 | 12:35 pm

  27. Marketman says:

    natie, OMG, I would so love to read your mom’s thesis on souring agents if ever given a chance. I have written about sinigangs before and have explored many of the souring agents used… but I am sure I have only begun to scratch the surface… to all the readers who have commented here, thank you so much for all this wonderful input… as I said earlier, collectively, this is a pretty powerful group of food enthusiasts! :)

    Nov 13, 2008 | 1:02 pm

  28. tabchie says:

    hi MM,

    roselle juice/cordial is sold here in health and pharmacy stores here in australia…very expensive and it was featured in one of the current affairs here as a wonder juice ba….iyong packaging ala red wine ang itsura…hopes this helps=)

    Nov 13, 2008 | 1:35 pm

  29. kiko says:

    they’re called “rosella fruit” here downunder… i’ve never tried them personally.

    Please follow the link for more info:


    Nov 13, 2008 | 2:10 pm

  30. deinse says:

    Actually it was like santol the difference of the two of them, the rosella is more sour than santol,keep on searching for more information.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 3:20 pm

  31. alicia says:

    They sell them in a jar in Santis- from Australia I think- in a sweet syrup and it is recommended that you add to champagne or sparkling wine. I bought some and added one per glass( and some residual syrup) of sparkling wine for I brunch pretty good;)

    Nov 13, 2008 | 4:21 pm

  32. j. says:

    Here in the SF Bay Area, they are made into popcicles (paleta) and drinks called Jamaica (after the fruit itself), and peddled on stands and by street vendors in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods. Jamaicas are tart and their taste does resemble that of a cranberry in tartness, almost “mapakla” (there really isn’t an English subsitute for that word). I just didn’t think that the fresh variety would look that odd….I’ve always seen them prepackaged and ready to eat I guess!

    Nov 13, 2008 | 4:45 pm

  33. OziChris says:

    Rosellas are very well known in Australia for making jam. Try http://www.benjaminchristie.com/recipes/rosella-jam. There are other links if you Google “rosella jam recipe”

    Nov 13, 2008 | 7:27 pm

  34. isabella says:

    dear Marketman,

    My sister who is here now and lived in Mexico for 3 years told me that it is a flower from the hibiscus family,and it is a common fare in mexico.Dried flowers of this are being boiled in water and served as juice. The name is “agua de jamaica”. In Mexico the local name of this flower is “jamaica”. But so far, here we have not seen this specie yet.Good,you featured it.Your blog is really informative.



    Nov 13, 2008 | 7:45 pm

  35. Connie C says:

    To j.

    For the English word equivalent of the sour and mapakla, “ACRID” may probably be the closest to describe it?

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:20 pm

  36. j. says:

    Connie C,

    The word acrid does convey most of what the word is…mapakla doesn’t necessarily mean bitter, while the word acrid does connotate or imply that it is bitter. You are right though, it is the closest English word that can describe it…Thanks!

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:46 pm

  37. j. says:

    Connie C,

    The word acrid does convey most of what the word is…mapakla doesn’t necessarily mean bitter, while the word acrid does connotate or imply that it is bitter. You are right though, it is the closest English word that can describe it…Thanks!

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:46 pm

  38. abby says:

    sour, mapakla in english is probably astringent, one of the 6 tastes in ayurvedic medicine, which is described as inducing dryness in the mouth, makes your mouth pucker

    Nov 13, 2008 | 8:56 pm

  39. EbbaMyra says:

    I saw this in the Vietnamese store last weekend, I asked the teller what it was, and he did not respond. It was in a platic bag sold in 4’s and they were partially peeled. Wow, talagang pag-punta ko dyan sa Pinas next year, sa Salcedo agad ang punta ko. Thanks for this post.

    Nov 13, 2008 | 10:03 pm

  40. OCMC says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roselle_(plant)…Just thought I’d add this for everyone’s perusal :-)

    Nov 14, 2008 | 12:33 am

  41. Jelo says:

    Late entry but these are Hibiscus Calyxes. In Mexico they’re used to make a cold drink called “jamaica” (ha-mai-ka). The taste is very similar to cranberry juice and is supposed to be really good for you (loaded with antioxidants and whatnot). I got to try this in Arizona. It was a little Mexican cantina with no name.

    Nov 14, 2008 | 1:09 am

  42. Maricel says:

    If you can still get hold of the Maria Y. Orosa cookbook, I remember it to have a lot of roselle recipes.

    Nov 14, 2008 | 7:45 am

  43. shalimar says:

    Just bought a jar of wild hibiscus (Australian) you put it on your champagne….

    check this site I paid $15 for the jar though I could get it cheaper at Amazon by then I have to pay a lot for shipment


    Nov 14, 2008 | 11:12 am

  44. corrine says:

    I saw these and Gil’s wife told me the name but I can’t recall it now. These are fresh ones and she said they are used as souring agent.

    Nov 14, 2008 | 12:08 pm

  45. liz says:

    This is interesting. Where is the Salcedo market? Is it open sat or sun? I’ve been hearing about this but never had the chance to check it out.

    Also, I would like to ask, where can I get Vietnamese herb plants BESIDES their rau ram, asian basil and saw tooth coriander here in manila? I went there for a visit and got hooked on the food which I couldn’t replicate unless i have their herbs.

    Nov 14, 2008 | 9:30 pm

  46. kurzhaar says:

    bettyq, got to this late, but yes, that is a roselle (a Hibiscus species) and as others have already pointed out is used to make agua de jamaica (pronounced ha-may-ca)…you’ll see it right next to the tamarindo and horchata drinks in Mexican restaurants. Personally I like the tamarindo better.

    I would describe the taste as tart and somewhat astringent (not acrid) or tannic.

    Nov 15, 2008 | 2:50 am

  47. Carmen says:

    Please check “sorrel/bissap.” Apart from it being very popular in the Caribbean, it is also very widely used in Africa.

    It’s great that it’s available in PI…who would’ve thought? It’s a lovely drink esp mixed with ginger (lots), melon, pineapple, mango, etc. (blended of course).

    Nov 15, 2008 | 2:53 am

  48. Jun says:

    I’ve also seen this nice looking things in one of the supermarket chain here in singapore but don’t know what it is and what to do with it. Will try it out if I see it again.

    Nov 15, 2008 | 11:59 am

  49. Shoppa Holique says:

    it looks solid though (in response to the “they’re dried flowers” comment…

    i always though hibiscus is gumamela. hahaha

    Nov 16, 2008 | 4:23 pm

  50. teksy says:

    Those are Rosella or Hibiscus. Here in Taiwan , they are made into candied desserts ( i.e. like candied kamias) which is a specialty in the North. A popular drink during the summer (flowers boiled and crystal sugar added as sweetener ) a yummy thirst quencher…..

    Nov 16, 2008 | 10:27 pm

  51. Abbi says:

    I’ve had it in the form of a drink (from both the dried or fresh flower sepal (or is it petal?) steeped in boiling water) either pure or mixed with some other fruit juice, made into a jam or as a compote. It’s absolutely delicious and very refreshing as a cool drink on a hot day. It’s very popular in the Caribbean.

    Nov 17, 2008 | 10:59 am

  52. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Liz,Salcedo Mkt is in Makati and open Sat mornings(till 2pm?). Fr Cubao Edsa turn right Buendia. Left at Paseo then after mkti ave,turn right at citibank corner. At end of that road,turn left.You will find the Salcedo market there to your right.
    Salcedo mkt is tops,but you can visit Legaspi mkt on sundays..or if you live in QC,you can visit Sidcor at the Lung Center Sunday mornings. Lots of finds too.
    Salcedo of course has a “different” market. You’ll find chefs,and royal ladies( Heh,heh)…Lots of good food finds.Fun and you feel safe (tee-hee).Compact market.

    Nov 18, 2008 | 7:58 pm

  53. Maricel says:

    This was used as decoration for a cheesecake at this site


    I also thought the hibiscus I read in recipes for agua de jamaica referred to our gumamela and I reacted with an EEWWW because I remember gumamela flowers as the slimy stuff we added to soap when we played with soap bubbles as kids.

    Nov 19, 2008 | 12:21 pm

  54. Prixie says:


    I have a box of hibiscus roselle tea from Bangkok. It’s tart with a strange kind of guava-like (?) spicy flavor. It tastes different from hibiscus tea, which is tart with a refreshing, cooling taste.

    It’s my first time to stumble upon this website. Marketman, what a cool place you’ve made here! I’ve been to some of your favorite haunts and I love them too!

    Nov 23, 2008 | 7:03 am

  55. JOHN MAAJI LAUJI says:

    nothing so sweet like the juice of the fruits best to drink

    Nov 28, 2008 | 5:43 pm

  56. gil carandang says:

    sorry i was not around when the marketman came to my stall in salcedo community market. anyway, it is roselle! fantastic for tea, drink, sweets, etc. i started to grow them in my farm lately although i had the material long time ago from thailand. good for drinks and “sinigangs”. in fact, i also use the leaves which is also sour taste which i add to my salad greens (over and above, in addition to lettuces and arugulas).
    will be introducing soon at the salcedo market as refreshing drink aside from our regular lemongrass cooler. my brother suggested making them to vinegar (great red color similar to red wine vinegar). will also experiment making them into wines. if that fails, will simply stick to roselle “balsamic” red vinegar. Visit me at the salcedo market every saturday 7am-2pm

    Dec 9, 2008 | 4:00 pm

  57. Yamai Madaki says:

    Here in Nigeria it is called “zobo”it is usually farmed in the northen part of Nigeria,zobo is used in making refreshing drinks here and it is highly believed to be medicinal,this drink is refreshing.You just need to boil it filter let it cool add a little sugar served chilled,you won’t regret it.
    It cuold also be prepared specially by mixing it with ginger this one again is something else you need to taste it even though i heard it an export product now from Nigeria,just incase you have interest in exporting it lets meet and discuss how i will supply it while you do the selling.Thank you.

    Dec 18, 2008 | 4:47 pm

  58. kai says:

    Hibiscus sabdariffa, commonly known as roselle, rosella, or sorrel. We grow the plants here in our garden (in the caribbean), my mother makes a delicious drink, here is a recipe as a basic guideline:

    3-4 lbs fresh sorrel (seed removed), 1 inch thinly sliced fresh ginger, a stick of cinnamon, and sugar to taste. boil in large pot with water for 20-30 minutes, cool and refrigerate. serve with ice

    Jan 2, 2009 | 4:48 am

  59. rodela says:

    This is called labog here in Iloilo. There are two varieties. The green and the purple. The leaves are more popular as a souring agent rather than its fruit

    Jan 6, 2009 | 3:36 pm

  60. rodela says:

    This is good for lechon stuffing too.

    Jan 6, 2009 | 3:36 pm

  61. Kostyan says:

    WOW!!! I’ve been looking for that. My supply of that dried Hibiscus Tea had already been exhausted. It’s called Nile Rose (common term) for a kind of Hibiscus plant that grows along the coast of Nile river. They are also called Sudan Rose or Karkadeh by the Russians, Egyptians and some Arab countries.
    The first time I tasted it when I was in Latvia, I liked it so much I bought plenty. The tea can be hot or cold. It’s red and sweet. A bit tangy but that gives it the twist. Russian people love to drink that. When I went to Egypt, I bought plenty back home. Woah! Thanks for posting that pic.

    Jan 18, 2009 | 11:38 pm

  62. Kostyan says:

    I hope I can still find it there January na,,, sana meron pa

    Jan 18, 2009 | 11:43 pm

  63. carrie says:

    we drink it like tea in taiwan, just add some hot water to it.

    Jan 28, 2009 | 12:55 am

  64. massira says:

    i am doing research about properties of rosella or hibiscus sabdariffa for my pharmacian thesis.please i need all kind of study and information on this plant or on any theme whit it.my e-mail is syramsy@yahoo.fr.
    thank you a lot fr yur answer.

    Mar 27, 2009 | 9:25 am

  65. cheryl favorito says:

    We have this plant, ROSELLE, when i was a child in Bobon, N.Samar. I still have a some flowers now from my cousin in Cebu.

    Apr 9, 2009 | 12:09 pm

  66. Sheldon says:

    In Jamaica we use the calyxes to make the following beverage.
    Its an awesome drink when made properly. In my backyard I
    grow a variety that produces right through the year. I will
    be able to make some of this again by the end of April 2009.

    Also, here is a link to good info on it: http://www.meaningfulpursuit.com/edibleplantproject/2008/10/jamaicansorrel/



    1 pound sorrel
    2-4 oz. ginger
    2 quarts water
    wine (optional)
    8-12 pimento grains


    Wash sorrel thoroughly, using the fingers to lift it
    from the water.
    Put into stainless steel or glass container.
    Scrape and wash ginger. Grate and Add to the sorrel. Add pimento grains.
    Boil water and pour over mixture of sorrel, ginger & pimento.
    Allow to stand 4-6 hours. Strain.
    Sweeten and/or add rum to taste.
    Serve with ice cubes.

    Apr 18, 2009 | 12:16 am

  67. erzsebet says:

    this is the cientific name: hibiscus sabdariffa, there are over 200 hundreds species around the tropical world, and yes is edible, makes worderful wines, relives colds, hangovers, fever, etc

    Apr 27, 2009 | 1:26 am

  68. ponchit says:

    i remember reading an old periodical of the dept of agriculture circa 1940 I think that promoted growing of roselle. they also had recipes for roselle jam if I remember correctly….I buy dried roselle buds from bangkok to make into tea….really good. the leaves is also a favorite souring agent in negros

    Dec 19, 2009 | 5:04 pm

  69. emsy says:

    I think this is the same flower used in the a Tazo Tea variant called Passion. I had that tea in Starbucks, and yes, it is quite sour.

    Jan 5, 2010 | 11:35 am

  70. Jack Hammer says:

    Yes….Dried fruit…Karkade…Middle Eastern….Sour Tea….MM just let me know if you want some when I next come to the Phils.

    Feb 9, 2010 | 6:28 pm

  71. Mai says:

    My cousin from Canada says that Hibiscus Tea is good for lowering blood pressure and they have been drinking it for quite some time and very effective. She asked me to look for it here in the Philippines so I tried surfing & found this posting. They are running out of supply from their bulk purchase … don’t exactly know if it was just last year … and don’t know where to buy again.

    Feb 26, 2010 | 11:24 pm

  72. ta says:

    We call it sorrel and I had my first drink when I was in Grade 5,the school had plants.
    Now when I came to Canada,my friends at work from the Caribbean gave me a bottle with a raspberry colored drink at Xmas ,very festive for the season.When she said
    sorrel I was so delighted as it brought back memories when I was in elementary school.

    Mar 5, 2010 | 6:07 am

  73. ~K says:

    http://www.thinkgeek.com has an item in their “edibles” catalog that is a jar of 11 of said flowers preserved in a heavy cane syrup. they’re directly meant to be added to drinks or various deserts in this fashion. i’m extremely tempted to cultivate some of these myself for this purpose.


    May 15, 2010 | 2:25 am

  74. lito says:

    my grandma in Ilocos norte roasts the seeds to substitute our coffee beverage.

    Sep 29, 2010 | 11:50 am


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