Sorrel is a slender herbaceous perennial plant about 60 cm (24 in) high, with roots that run deep into the ground, as well as juicy stems and edible, arrow-shaped leaves. The leaves, when consumed raw, have a tart, lemon-y taste.
Rumex acetosa occurs in grassland habitats throughout Europe from the northern Mediterranean coast to northern Scandinavia and in parts of Central Asia. It occurs as an introduced species in parts of New Zealand, Australia and North America.
Common sorrel has been cultivated for centuries. The leaves may be pureed in soups and sauces or added to salads; they have a flavour that is similar to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries. The plant’s sharp taste is due to oxalic acid.
Sorrel is used in a number of dishes including stews, soups and salads. The Troisgros bothers of France invented “salmon escalope” with sorrel sauce in 1962 which was emblematic of French nouvelle cuisine.
We grow common (aka French) sorrel in our garden. It is a hardy cold weather preferring plant that grows quickly in early spring. Its growth slows down during the heat of summer then picks up again in the fall. Sorrel is one of the last plants to succumb to frost in November.
We use it to prepare Sorrel soup in the spring and fall. Europe has several versions of this soup. Ours is a simple potato based soup we believe comes from France. The silky green soup has a tart lemony flavor. The tartness can be enhance or reduced depending on the amount of raw sorrel leaves you add before pureeing.
Sorrel; 2 – 3 spinach sized bunches
1- 2 Onions
1 – 2 Med Potatoes
Water to cover potatoes
Seasoning (Salt, 1 stock cube)
- These amounts are for about 2 – 3 bunches of sorrel, each bunch the size of a supermarket size spinach bunch
- Wash well (most leaves are pretty clean but a few get dusty if they are near the ground. There are also a few bugs on some leaves)
- Remove largest stems
- saute 1 – 2 chopped onions in butter, about 5 min until translucent
- Add 1 or 2 med sized chopped potatoes and water to just cover
- Simmer until potatoes are soft
- Turn off heat, mix in 2/3 of the washed sorrel, it will ‘melt’ like spinach although the colour will change
- Add whatever seasonings you normally use, eg salt and a stock cube, for instance
- Let cool
- When cool add in the remaining raw sorrel
- Whiz with a hand blender. Add chicken stock to ease mixing.
- Adjust seasoning – sometimes we add lemon juice to ‘up’ the tartness
- Tip – remove the very largest stems of the sorrel before adding into the soup, as supposedly they can have a hair-like texture. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Not sure how much difference it makes.
- Tip – For a less tarty soup melt more sorrel in the potatoes and add less raw sorrel during blending