Sorrel, whether wild or domesticated, is a delicious, lemon-flavored green that provides huge quantities of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Learn how to identify sorrel in the wild or grow it in your garden!
We love tasting each season. Every month of the year offers unique plants and fungi that are at their seasonal peaks – the stage in their life cycles where their edible parts are at peak edibility.
Living at the base of the Appalachian Mountains on the outskirts of Greenville, SC (in Ag Zone 7b) means that we’re now getting bumper “crops” of wild edible foods as well. Wild garlic, chickweed, cress, stinging nettle, and sorrel are all thriving in the cool temperatures of late winter.
Morel mushrooms are just starting to fruit in our secret spots. Our garden is also loaded with various varieties of lettuce, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, mustards, peas, chicories and other cool season goodies that will soon be gone as the temperatures rise, triggering them to flower and produce seeds.
Living in the midst of these organisms and their life cycles reminds us to appreciate the seasons of our lives, an especially salient point as we continue to mourn the recent loss of a parent. We’re surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful, complex, yet delicate lifeforms. As the apex species, we have a responsibility to do our best to understand, appreciate, and steward the web that sustains us.
One such seasonal plant that we’ve really enjoyed over the years is sorrel, both wild and domesticated varieties:
- Wild sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella), native to Europe and the Mediterranean, grows wild throughout the US where it’s considered an invasive weed. They grow wild in certain areas of our yard, and can take over a bed if you let them via runners or from seed.
- Common sorrel, aka garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), is a bred variety also originating from Europe and the Mediterranean. The plants are perennials that can live for decades. This is our favorite cultivated variety that’s growing in our garden.
- Blood sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) is a very attractive red-veined sorrel, but it’s taste isn’t nearly as good as other varieties. It’s leaves are best eaten young and are nearly inedible as the weather warms.
- French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) is a daintier version of common sorrel that was bred in France.
Somewhat confusing, another common wild plant is often called “wood sorrel.” To limit confusion, these are probably best called Oxalis, as they’re not related to Rumex sorrels, despite their similar flavors. Oxalis have leaf shapes similar to clover and produce tiny edible flowers. Both the leaves and flowers are edible, and I remember nibbling the flowers during my childhood, delighting in their lemony flavor.
Garden Sorrel: A Lemon-Flavored Vitamin Powerhouse
When you first sample sorrel, you’ll experience a bit of a shock that a leafy vegetable can somehow taste like sweet lemons.
The flavor is primarily the result of oxalic acid, which is also found in broccoli and spinach. If you eat huge quantities of oxalic acid, it can be toxic, but for a healthy person without kidney problems, there’s virtually zero health risk involved in eating sorrel or other edible plants containing oxalic acid.
Sorrel exhibits some truly amazing nutritional qualities. For instance, a single cup of chopped sorrel leaves delivers over 100% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
It’s pretty easy to understand why sorrel would have been a prized plant before people could drive to the grocery store to get citrus or other vitamin-rich foods. It may have been the only thing preventing scurvy (Vitamin-C deficiency) in many people’s diets.
We like to make sorrel soup and sauce with our leaves, but apparently they can also be made into an excellent lemon-free “lemon pie.”
Recipe: 15 Minute Sorrel Soup
This past weekend, we decided to make sorrel soup using sheep’s sorrel, which tastes virtually identical to garden sorrel.
There are plenty of sorrel soup recipes online, but I was feeling lazy, so wanted to make something really fast that also used some of the fresh young garlic chives leaves that are proliferating in our garden right now. That meant we’d have to venture off to create our own new sorrel soup recipe.
Prep and cooking of this sorrel soup recipe probably took a total of 15-20 minutes, including snapping pictures. We were quite happy with the way the soup turned out, so wanted to share the recipe in case you’re looking for a fast and easy sorrel soup recipe.
One thing to note is that sorrel does not maintain its green color and turns more of a tan color once you cook it.
- 4 cups chopped sorrel leaves (garden sorrel, French sorrel, or sheep's sorrel will all work)
- 2½ cups water
- ⅓ cup diced garlic chives (you can use chopped yellow onions or garlic greens as a substitute)
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons organic whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 Tablespoon organic chicken bouillon
- (optional) Sea salt to taste, but bouillon should add all the saltiness needed
- Put soup pot on medium heat. Add butter. Once butter is melted, add diced garlic chives and cook for about 2-3 minutes, moving the leaves around to ensure even cooking.
- As the chives are cooking, prepare 2 cups of warm water and whisk in 1 tablespoon of chicken bouillon. Add to pot along with chopped sorrel leaves. Cook for 5 minutes.
- We have an immersion blender that we LOVE. At this point, you'll want to immersion blend the soup to completely break down the leaves into a smooth, consistent texture. If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer to a food processor, blend, then put back into pot on stove top.
- Next, put ½ cup of room temperature water into mixing bowl and slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons of whole wheat pastry flour. This is your thickening agent. If you put the flour directly into the hot soup mixture, it will clump up, so this is why you're mixing it in room temperature water first. Pastry flour is lighter and more finely ground, providing a better texture for soup. Once the flour is mixed into the water, slowly pour the mixture into the soup, whisking vigorously as you go to prevent clumping. Cook for another minute or so. Taste and add a pinch of sea salt or more bouillon if desired.
- Remove from heat and serve!
We hope you enjoy this garden-to-table recipe! Oh, if you don’t have an immersion blender yet (as is mentioned in the recipe), here’s the one we recommend. It will save you a ton of time and work in the kitchen.