Sorrel: such a pretty name, don’t you think? The name is all I’ve previously known about it, even though it is a plant indigenous to Britain. However, one day early this Spring, I got my first sight and taste of it through Elspeth. Elspeth runs the charming, unspoilt Dove Valley Centre, where I shall soon be holding classes. She walked me down into one of their meadows to hunt for the first tender shoots amidst the verdant grass. We nibbled at the leaves, and I was delighted by it’s tangy flavour, which is a bit lemony, a bit vinegary, and reminiscent of gooseberries. I’ve never found sorrel in any shop, yet since this introduction, I keep encountering it. My local organic veg box supplier had some in stock last week, and this week I was given a surprise donation of the garden variety to plant in my vegetable patch.
Sorrel belong to the lettuce family and is sometimes used as a vegetable, and sometimes as a herb. The former use suits the larger garden variety. When it is mature it is similar to spinach and wilts down quickly to a silky consistency over gentle heat. The latter use suits the tender, young leaves, which can be used raw; slice finely (chiffonade) and add to either vegetable or fruit based salads. You can of course, throw a few of the leafy greens into green juices and smoothies.
So far, I’ve experimented using sorrel in my daily lunch-time salads, where it’s tart flavour can lift blander ingredients such as chinese leaves and cucumber. Avoid mixing them with bitter item such as watercress or rocket. I’ve also put it into my morning green juice, and I’ve made a raw pesto with it. As sorrel contains oxalic acid, it’s advisable to consume in moderation. But do try it, if you’re lucky enough to come across it. In season right now. Ask around, you may be surprised who can source it for you.
PS. Since writing this article I’ve come across this reference: 50 things to do with fresh sorrel. It’s given me the idea to experiment with sprouted lentils and raw celeriac next week. Despite it being Winter, there’s still some sorrel in the veg. patch.