Sorrel is often thought of as a salad green, rather than an herb, but it's actually both! The tangy lemony leaves are best added to salads while young and tender. If you grow it for that reason alone it's worth it. Sorrel, Rumex scutatus,
is a hardy perennial, yet many herb growers suggest using it for two or three years then pulling up and planting it fresh. This allows you more control over the planting, because it does self sow quite vigorously. However, it is a perennial and can be divided by the roots. I have not done this, but I would be willing to give it a try!
Sorrel grows easily from seed planted in early spring. Plant 1/4 inch deep, cover with light soil or sand and keep moist until it germinates, which will be about a week or so. Thin when the seedlings are 2 inches high, spacing the remaining plants about 4 inches apart. You can begin harvesting the leaves when they are 4-6 inches high. Use what you need, but do not let the plant go to seed! You can cut it all the way down, and it will grow back quickly. Sorrel can also be grown in containers or indoors. Sow in the fall for harvesting in the winter. It can be placed in full or partial sun, but if it gets very hot in your zone partial sun may be better. If you live in a mild climate, sorrel will stay green all winter, but will not grow as quickly. Again, be sure to cut it back.
If you've never used sorrel, try adding small amounts to your salads. In any recipe that calls for spinach you can substitute a small amount of sorrel-try 1/4 sorrel, 3/4 spinach as a start. Place a sprig or two on sandwiches with the lettuce or in place of watercress. Shred sorrel into soups with a tomato or fish base. It is one of the herbs that is best added at the last minute instead of cooking for longer periods of time. Sorrel does not dry well, but you can puree the leaves and store in the freezer to use as seasoning. For salads and when using raw choose leaves that are less than 6 inches, but save the larger ones for cooking.
When adding sorrel cut back on the amount of lemon and vinegar in the recipe. It's a good herb for those on salt free diets because it adds seasoning without salt.
These are simple sorrel recipes that can be adapted to your tastes. Remember that you can add sorrel to any fresh salad, or combine with spinach in any of your favorite recipes!
Greens and Fish
An old authentic French recipe
1/2 pound chard
1/2 pound spinach
few leaves of sorrel
one garlic clove
2 pounds thin fish fillets
Place the greens and one peeled, crushed garlic clove in a pot and cook for ten minutes, then chop. Add the fish, and cook for 10-15 minutes until done-NO longer. Place piece of crusty bread on a plate and serve the fish and the chopped greens beside one another with the liquid.
1 tablespoon cream
1 cup sorrel, cleaned and trimmed
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 tsp salt
Shred sorrel. In a heavy pan, heat half the butter and add sorrel and salt. Cook for about ten minutes, while stirring. Combine the eggs and cream in a bowl, beating gently. Add the sorrel mixture and combine. Add the remaining butter to a skillet and heat until butter is slightly browned. Add the egg mixture and stir briskly with the back of a fork or spoon until the eggs are evenly spread on the bottom of the skillet. Keep moving the unset eggs around with the utensil smoothly until there is no liquid left. Do not overcook. Shake the pan gently over the heat a few times. Fold the omelet over in half and serve.
1/2 pound sorrel
2 tablespoons butter
6 cups water
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
Clean and shred sorrel, then chop. In a large heavy pan, heat butter. Add sorrel and cook, stirring, for ten minutes until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Add the water, potatoes and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 1/2 hour. Strain and mash or puree the vegetables. Stir the cooking liquid into vegetables and return to pan. Bring to boil. Stir in milk and yolk. Cook until hot, but do not boil. Serve with French Bread.
About the author:
Brenda Hyde is editor of Seeds of Knowledge, a freelance writer, cook, gardener and Mom. Growing and using herbs has become one of her favorite things.