This blog post is on growing and harvesting sorrel. Sorrel is a perennial salad leaf that is very easy to grow. To be honest it is not my family and everyone’s favourite salad leave. As it’s got a funny oxalic acid taste in it. Sorrel practically speaking is an herb vegetable or pot herb as it can be cooked like a vegetable but taste like a herb with its distinctive lemony flavour.
However, like all/ most leafy vegetables, it is so good for you. I have grown them on my borders in the garden. This border has got the classic London (common in southern England) clay soil, ivy and slugs. These red vein wood sorrel seem to survive despite all the downs they get there. Unlike asparagus which takes time to get established this perennial grower so well with minimum effort.
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Growing and harvesting sorrel
I started sowing them from seeds last two years and they have been there ever since. In their first year, the sorrel leaves were very much smaller in size. This year they are massive. Probably because I haven’t been harvesting them much. I have just left them alone all year round.
I started sowing the seeds sometime in late August and early September. And I left them on the ground over the winter. In the winter sorrel don’t grow much they just stay dormant. They are winter hardy and will shrug off some degree of frost. My border is fairly south facing so that helps to give them some warmth.
To keep a continuous supply just cut the leaves and not pull the roots out of the ground. Not unless you had enough of eating them.
Their red vein leaves make great looking container or hanging basket plant. Once established they don’t need much care. Just feed them with some manure or all-purpose compost.
Sorrel once established they can take over the garden like any weed so do cut them down as much as you can. Also they are self seeding which means they can grow back by themselves.
Red vein wood sorrel is not such a popular vegetable/ herb to grow due to its oxalic acid taste when raw. Use in small quantities it adds flavour to salads. Therefore it is not grown commercially not commonly seen in supermarkets here in the UK even it is so easy to grow. However, when it’s cooked it is quite delicious. It makes a great partner to fish, veal, eggs and potatoes in soup or gratin with a delightful oxalic acid taste.
Growing and harvesting sorrel
I have to have them trim down come spring as there is only that much of wood sorrel one can eat!! Once established these plants can last up to 8 to 10 years.
It can be harvested at baby leaf stage and it is a great lettuce substitute in salads and sandwiches as it doesn’t go limp.
Sorrel is also used fresh and raw in Asian cuisine. It’s the Broad-Leaf sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and French or Buckler-leaf sorrel (Rumex scutatus) commonly seen in Vietnamese cuisine. In Vietnam it is known as rau chua (sour herb) or rau thom (fresh herb).
In western recipes, it is more often cooked as green in soup or in cream sauce with fish or chicken, or as to a wrap to tenderized meat or fish. The idea of One recipe is to add it to potato soup or gratin. Just saute three or four large handfuls of chopped leaves in a bit of butter until they ‘melt’. The melting quality makes sorrel a fantastic central ingredient for sauces for fish and veal. Your guest will wonder where the ‘tang’ taste comes from. so rather than not like the oxalic- acid content pairing its tart content adds a distinctive flavour to the dish.
Bigger leaves can be cooked like spinach and used in soups, sauces and risottos. By heating it dulls the taste a little, so you can afford to be more generous with the leaves if you are going to cook them.
Most people need not be concerned about oxalic-acid but those with certain conditions such as kidney disease, kidney stones, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, do need to be careful. The high acid content of the leaves also means the flavour can be impaired if cooked in aluminium or cast iron pans. Use stainless steel utensils as well as cookware while cooking sorrel.
Do let me know what are you thoughts and experience with sorrel. Thank you for stopping by.