PLENTIFUL: This light red mountain of sorrel sells for $20 for four pounds on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain

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Sorrel You can't do without a brew

By Verdel Bishop

With the arrival of sorrel steadily making its rounds around the country, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Just like food, drinks are also given their fair share of prominence on the list of Christmas favourites — when it comes to sorrel however, there is hardly a Trinbago household that can do without the brew during the festive season. All sorrels are not created equal however, especially since there is a new variety of the seasonal fruit on the market which is being targeted as a favourite among sorrel lovers.

The deep red variety is plentiful and is in high demand this season. Locally this variety goes by many different descriptions — deep red sorrel or black sorrel. According The National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco's) director of developmental services Ganesh Gangapersad, the origin of the sorrel could have come from Jamaica where it is popularly grown. There are three varieties of sorrel — pink which is the variety most people are accustomed too; the dark red variety which is currently in high demand the pale yellow (almost white) variety.

Gangapersad noted that over the years, the deep red variety has grown in popularity however, usually becomes scarce at the height of the season. It is usually available from early November. He said farmers over the years have been planting more and more of the deep red crop which is highly sorted after because of its strong aroma and because of its greater yield.

"Farmers over the years have been planting more and more of it because consumers prefer it. It has a stronger aroma and you get a good yield out of it so it stretches more. It's a bigger flower and its fleshier which is one of the pluses is," Gangapersad said. He said it is grown in similar conditions to the normal pink sorrel which consumers are accustomed with.

Over the years sorrel prices have risen because of scarce crops, however it's too early in the season to determine the scarcity of the crops.

President of the Agriculture Society, Dhana Sookoo, meanwhile, said by mid-December the availability of sorrel will be properly assessed.

According to Sookoo, "I think it's too early to determine scarcity now. By the second week of December we would be able to determine this by the prices," Sookoo said. This season, however, Sookoo is pleased with the current price of sorrel. Pink sorrel goes for $20 for four pounds while the deep red variety goes for $25 per pound.

"By the second or third week of December we will be able to determine the availability of sorrel by the prices. This season the price is reasonably well considering the weather-condition challenges. The current price is an extremely good bargain for consumers. This is a good sign that we can look forward to lower prices as we come closer to Christmas," Sookoo said. She noted that around this time last year the price was a little higher.

Sorrel drink is prepared in many different ways. Cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves are must-have spices in the preparation of the drink.

In some preparations the prickly seed is removed before boiling the sepals or calyx however, it is trendy these days to boil the sorrel leaving the seed intact. Some people add a touch of rum to add an extra kick to their brew.

Also, in some instance sorrel is left to stand in the sun for a couple days before enjoying a cold glass, however, some people believe this is not necessary as the drink can be enjoyed straight away after brewing.

Also, while some people simply add sugar following the boiling process of the sorrel, caterer, Patricia Dalrymple, swears by boiling her sugar water separately for about five minutes before mixing with the deep red brew.

She said this version is ideal as it draws out the flavour of the drink. Meanwhile, she said while it works for others, she would never consider brewing sorrel with the seeds. She said this changes its flavour.

After brewing your sorrel, instead of discarding the pulp, jams and jellies are popular treats that will pair well with your holiday ham or turkey.

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