Sorrel (Rumex Acetosa)
Sharp, lemony leaves with a tartness that will surprise and delight – more like a firm, young Granny Smith apple than an aromatic herb. Bright green, fresh-looking, turning to a very fashionable khaki when cooked, the leaves are long and spear-shaped, pointier than spinach.
Sorrel leaves give bite to the sweeter leaves in a salad, work well with the soft tastes of potatoes, cauliflower, pasta, grains, pulses and eggs and are a good accompaniment to fish of all sorts. It can be used in sweet dishes as well as savoury. Great in juices as it contains plentiful vitamins A, B1 and C. Sorrel is a thoroughly versatile herb.
Sorrel was popular in Roman times, said to have been a thirst quencher for soldiers on the march as well as a good source of vitamins and minerals.
According to botanist John Gerard in his mighty tome The Herbal, first published in 1597: ‘The juice hereof in Sommer time is a profitable sauce to many meats, and pleasant to the taste’ and perhaps better still is the conclusion of 17th century herbalist John Evelyn who claimed that its properties seemed to make not only the leaves but ‘men themselves more pleasant and agreeable’.
Sorrel for world peace?
Good news. Sorrel will grow in most soils and provided you don’t let it dry out too much over the summer it has a long growing season. Keeping harvesting the leaves to encourage new growth. Supposedly its sharp taste deters slugs and snails but my snails, naturally, have refined palates and seem to enjoy it. Sorrel can be grown as a perennial but growing it annually provides more tender, brighter leaves.
I love buckler leaf sorrel (rumex scutatus) with its small shield-shaped, silver-green leaves. It’s great in salads. Sheep’s sorrel (rumex acetosella) grows wild, generally on acid soils. It retains some of the tartness of its relatives but can often be a bit woody. A good one for foragers.