Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) Early Perennial Greens

by Charlotte Walker
Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

A hot bowl of sorrel (green borscht) soup is a sure sign that spring has finally arrived. Often mixed with sorrel, nettles and other wild greens, this centuries-old recipe is pure nourishment.

Last august while visiting Saskatchewan, my 87 year old grandmother-in-law, handed me a bowl of her sour leaf soup. AS I savoured it, she told me how she had spotted a gorgeous patch of sorrel and climbed into a ditch to harvest it. I’ll admit, I hope I will be spry and climbing into ditches when I am in my late 80’s. Sorrel soup tastes best when made by the skilled hands of someone who has been lovingly foraging wild greens and refining the recipe for 70 years.

Sorrel, also known as sour dock, sour leaf, sally suckers, is a delicious herb, with sour lemony flavored leaves. Pick one and suck on it and you’ll know immediately why children through the ages have delighted in sucking on the leaves.

We have decided to cultivate a bed of garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) also known as common sorrel. It is a hardy perennial herb and one of the first edible greens to come up in the spring. We hope that by cultivating it, we will get larger plants, with bigger leaves.

Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

Garden sorrel leaves (Rumex acetosa)

Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) also known as red sorrel, field sorrel, and sour weed grows wild on our land. The garden sorrel is being grown to augment the wild harvest.  One just can’t have enough sorrel when your whole family loves it.

Garden sorrel tends to grow bigger, offering more generous sized leaves than sheep sorrel but from what I have read, generally, they are interchangeable and similar in nutritional and flavor profiles.

This dull-red flower that sends up its pretty spires in fields and meadows everywhere now, may often be found with buttercups and daisies, and is very attractive in a bowl with them. Look at the small crimson flowers, each with three petals and its own tiny stalk. There are many of them on the spike. The leaves are smooth, arrow head shaped and dark green. ~ Enid Blyton’s Nature Lovers Book 1953 edition

Quick facts

Common Name: sorrel
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)
Native Range: Northern Temperate regions
Climate: Zone: 3 to 7
Leaves: Has large, deep-veined, elongated arrow-like tender leaves

A highly adaptive species, sorrel reportedly emigrated with early settlers and is now found in at least 70 countries.

You’ll find it throughout Canada and the northern United States where it is possibly native in some regions and introduced from Europe in others. (source) Highly adaptable, it establishes itself in a wide range of conditions,  including neutral to acidic and sandy, loamy and clay soils. Some who have not gotten to know sorrel might call it a pesky weed.

High in vitamin C, sorrel was widely used to treat scurvy

sheep sorrel

Sheep Sorrel in flower (Rumex acetosella)

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 cup chopped raw sorrel)

29 calories
3 g protein
4 g carbohydrate
4g Fiber
1 g fat

Excellent source of:

Vitamin A: 5320 IU (106.4% DV)
Vitamin C: 63.8 mg (106.3% DV)
Magnesium: 137 mg (34.3% DV)
Manganese: 0.5 mg (25% DV)

Good source of:

Iron: 3.2 mg (17.8% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 4 g (16% DV)
Potassium: 519 mg (14.8% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (10% DV)

Phosphorus: 83.8 mg (8.4% DV)
Thiamin: 0.1 mg (6.7% DV)
Calcium: 58.5 mg (5.9% DV)
Riboflavin: 0.1 mg (5.9% DV)

Also provides:

Folate: 17.3 mcg (4.3% DV)
Niacin: 0.7 mg (3.5% DV)
Source: US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Warnings/Cautions:

The wise old saying “Everything in Moderation” stands true with sorrel.

The leaves are edible raw, but the sour-bitter flavor deters most people from doing so in abundance. A few leaves scattered in a salad can bring a whole new dimension to your leafy greens. Although no one in my family has had problems with consuming sorrel in any form, various sources suggest that it should be consumed in moderate quantities due to its Oxalic acid content. Oxalates can block nutrient absorption. People with gout, rheumatism and kidney ailments should avoid foods containing oxalic acid. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should seek professional advice before consuming sorrel.

A soothing remedy for Stinging Nettles

Nettles contain acid, which makes nettle stings painful. Should @riverflows ever slap you with nettles for bad behavior over at @naturalmedicine, rubbing the sting with a sorrel leaf or any of the docks can relieve the pain because they contain an alkali that will neutralize the acid and reduces the sting. (source)

Essiac Folk Tea

Sorrel is a main ingredient in the popular Canadian essiac tea. This folk remedy is said to support the immune system. The main ingredients listed are burdock root, slippery elm, medicinal rhubarb (Rheum Officinale)and the entire sheep sorrel plant (including root and stems).

Since its adoption and promotion by a Canadian nurse Rene Caisse in the 1920s, Essiac has become used for detoxification and immune system strengthening, and there are anecdotal claims that it can be used in specific cancer treatment regimes.

It is said that she learned about the remedy from a Canadian Ojibwa healer, it was intended to purify the body and maintain a balance between body and spirit. Following this, Essiac is frequently used for its antioxidant properties.

I have not tried this remedy myself, and there are a lot of products and suppliers of the product along with recipes available online should you wish to research it further.

We bought our garden sorrel seeds from Annapolis seedsAnnapolis seeds in Canada’s Maritimes

Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) Early Perennial Greens

Resources

Edible Plants of Atlantic Canada
https://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/pdf/10.4141/cjps2011-042
Annapolis seeds
Enid Blyton’s Nature Lovers Book

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Always consult a herbalist or doctor if you have health conditions, take other medications or are pregnant. Please use caution when ingesting herbs. Study them, and be certain of what you are gathering. Information shared here is for educational purposes only. I make neither medical claim, nor intend to diagnose or treat medical conditions. You must do your research concerning the safety and usage of any herbs or supplements.

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