Gongura or the red sorrel is known by various names like the ambadi or pulicha keerai in various parts of India which comes in two varieties namely the green leaf and the red variety. The red variety is sourer than the green leaves. The leaves are bitter, mildly astringent and acidic in taste. Caribbean people prepare an exotic deep red sorrel punch, a sweet fruit drink with a wild sourness from the flowers of this plant.
Gongura leaves helps to cool any inflammation and heat in the blood. Fresh leaves of the gongura help to stimulate the stomach and to sharpen the appetite. Moreover it is an herb that helps to cools the liver. Gongura (Hibiscus Sabdariffa) is a relative of the roselle and an edible plant grown in India. The gongura leaves holds a special place in the Andhra cuisine. Gongura pacchadi is quintessentially a special delicacy of the Telugu cuisine which is a part of many feast or festivals. Gongura is widely consumed all over Andhra Pradesh and is one of the special dishes in many hotels, restaurants, eateries and food joints.
Red sorrel was introduced from Europe and has become naturalized throughout the U.S. Red sorrel is common in Ohio, especially in the unglaciated eastern part of the state and on old lake beaches south of Lake Erie. Red sorrel tolerates sites with low fertility or poor drainage but will thrive in nutrient rich soils where there is little competition from other plants. It is seldom a problem in cropland, but can be troublesome in pastures, meadows, strawberries, and grass lawns. It is common in waste areas and roadsides, especially on sandy or gravelly soils where it is difficult to eradicate.
Red sorrel is an herbaceous perennial that reproduces by seeds and extensive shallow horizontal roots. It is distinguished by its arrow-shaped leaves, low height, slender wiry stem with sheathed nodes, and red to rust-brown color. The creeping horizontal roots give rise to above-ground shoots that often form dense patches. Red sorrel seedlings have a fibrous root system, but eventually produce shallow horizontal roots with whitish buds from which new shoots arise. Seedlings resemble a rosette, made up of many leaves whose shape changes with age from egg- to spade-, to arrow-shaped. The base of leaf petioles is often red or brown.
Flowering stems are slender and erect, reaching heights from 6 to 18 inches. A single crown produces several tough and wiry stems that are branched at the top. At each node of the stem, a thin, greenish-yellow or silvery membranous sheath (ochrea) is attached just below the leaf stalk. The sheath surrounds the stem like a collar until it turns brown and shatters with age. Leaves grow alternately along the stem, one leaf per node. Lower leaves are long and spade-shaped with no lobes. Middle leaves are short and almost always have a lateral lobe near the base of the leaf on each side. Upper leaves are small with no lobes or stalks.
Seeds are less than 1/16th inch long, triangular or 3-sided, smooth, shiny, and reddish-brown or golden-brown. The rough, rust-brown hull often adheres to the seed. Red sorrel is difficult to confuse with other species due to its unique arrow-shaped, sour-tasting leaves. Red sorrel is a highly variable plant in leaf shape, color, and response to both temperature and day-length. It probably has two germination periods, one in spring and one in early autumn.
Red sorrel does not tolerate shade and is not very competitive except when growing on acid and nutrient deficient soils which it tolerates better than many other species. Fertilizer, liming, and improved drainage allow other species to be more competitive and to crowd out red sorrel. Red sorrel is not considered poisonous to humans, and is often eaten as a pot-herb or green.
The gongura is known as Puntikura in the Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh and is a very rich source of Iron, vitamins, folic acid and anti-oxidants essential for human nutrition. Similarly it is called as Pulichakeerai in Tamilnadu and is very popular over the state. The famous combination with “pulichakeerai” is “Ragi Kali/Ragi Mudde”, which once used to be a regular food for the people in villages. This is also popularly known as Ambaadi bhajji in Maharashtra state. It is a summer crop, and the hotter the place, the more sour the leaf gets. Other well known recipes made with Gongura as the main ingredient are Gongura Pappu (Lentils), Gongura mamsam (goat/mutton) and Gongura royyalu (shrimp). In recent times, Gongura Chicken is also being served in restaurants. Gongura and calabash is extremely popular with the Telugu community in South Africa. Apart from the curries there are many varieties of pickles made with gongura such as Gongura pachadi, Gongura pickle ambadi.
Throughout the Caribbean you can find deep red sorrel, which is not a close relative to European sorrel. Unlike European sorrel, it is an annual plant instead of a perennial. It does have a similar acidic taste and is favored in drinks, jellies, and sometimes in tarts. Sorrels are an excellent food for many and have high levels of vitamins A and C. It also has moderate levels of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Because of the oxalic acid in sorrel, it is not good for everyone. Oxalic acid may aggravate the conditions of people with rheumatism, kidney or bladder stones
Its acidic taste comes from the oxalic acid contained in its leaves. Round leaf sorrel has a slightly lemony flavor which is perfect for fish, soups, white sauces, cream sauces, eggs, poultry and white meats, as well as goat cheese. Salmon and “fricandeau” (a veal dish) with sorrel are classics of French gastronomy. Sorrel cooked in cream is a magnificent accompaniment to salmon, bream, turbot or mussels. It is first necessary to remove the stalks from sorrel, wash and drain it. Count on about 350 g per portion. Be aware that sorrel, like spinach, will give a much smaller volume when cooked. If your meat is of a lesser quality or a little tough, cut it into cubes and wrap each piece in a sorrel leaf before cooking to tenderize it.
These leaves are sour in taste and have lot of medicinal values. These leaves and flowers have a cooling effect and act as an appetizer. They are very useful in relieving symptoms of fever. You can use these leaves to treat jaundice. The juice extracted from these leaves mixed with butter milk is highly recommended once daily to treat jaundice. Gongura greens relieve indigestion, cold and cough. It cleanses the intestines. It also helps in removing infections as well.
The nutritional values per 100g of cooked sorrel leaves (gongura) are:
Energy: 24 kcal
Proteins: 1.8 g
Carbohydrates: 2.9 g
Fat: 0.6 g
Fibers: 0.7 g
Potassium: 321 mg
Iron: 2.1 mg
Vitamin C: 26mg