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  • The Wild Foodie

Wild Sorrel Identification, Their Uses and some Delicious Sorrel Recipes

Updated: Oct 30

The many types of Wild Sorrel including the more commonly known (and foraged) Common Sorrel, Sheep's Sorrel and Wood Sorrel. The green edible leaves and stalks are delicious and these distinctive perennial herbs have a lemony or sharp apple taste. Sorrel in all its forms and varieties are a truly delicious addition to salads and is regularly used as a herb in its own right. The plant has diuretic properties, and is high in vitamins such as A, B and C and in the past has been used to prevent scurvy. It is also a good source of potassium which may help to reduce blood pressure and water retention.


(Pic: Common Sorrel)


Romans used to eat Sorrel leaves as a digestive after overeating and on long hot marches they also used to suck the leaves to take the edge off their thirst. This habit gave the plant its name, which comes from the Latin ‘rumo’ meaning ‘I suck'.



It can be used in so many dishes including potato dishes, used with eggs or mushrooms, and it goes great with fish! Even eaten on its own as a side the leaves cook extremely quickly and need just a few seconds in a hot pan with a little butter, seasoning and a splash of water.


All types of Sorrel are high in oxalic acid and therefore should be used in moderation by anyone suffering with illness that is impacted by oxalic acid, these include rheumatism, arthritis, gout or bladder or kidney stones. Oxalic acid is responsible for the sharp citrus taste and why Sorrel is such as delicious herb.


There are also many types and varieties of edible Sorrel for you to get to know. These include: Common or Garden Sorrel (Rumex Acetosa), Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex Acetosella). As well as cultivated varieties including French Sorrel, Silver Shield, Broad leaved and Red Veined Sorrel.


However right now, we are focusing on just the wild varieties so here is a little more on Wild Sorrels that you could find and forage.


Looking for Wild Food and Foraging Guides? Check out our selection here.


Types of Wild Sorrel


Common Sorrel (Rumex Acetosa):


Common Sorrel

Common Names: Common Sorrel, Garden Sorrel, Narrow Leaved Dock, Sour Ducks, Vinegar plant or Spinach Dock

Edible: Edibility good (see medical notes), taste is excellent.

Season: Best in Spring (although available Jan to Dec)

Identification: Sorrel has distinctive arrow-shaped leaves and small red and green flower stalks that appear from May to August. It is an upright plant that grows up to 60 cm in height and later in the season its leaves are sometimes tinged with red. Red flowers and latterly seeds are carried on tall slender spikes.

Where to find: The plant can be found throughout the UK and is regularly found on farmland, heathland, wasteland, roadsides and in meadows. Widely disbursed.


Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella):


Wood Sorrel

Common Names: Wood Sorrel, Fairy Bells, Wood Sour or Cuckoo's Meat

Edible: Edibility good (see medical notes), taste is excellent.

Season: Jan to Dec

Identification: Wood Sorrels delicate three (trefoil) heart shaped leaves are a dead giveaway; it looks very similar to a clover growing to 10cm in height. Oxalis means ‘sour’ and the lemony leaves and stems are edible (and delicious) and are a very trendy garnish to many a chef’s dishes. It has white flowers that have tiny purple veins, and it can sometimes be seen to close its leaves in harsh conditions or when the light fades.

Where to find: Wood Sorrel can be found in damp, shaded areas that have largely been left undisturbed. Most commonly found in Woods under trees and in forest clearings.


Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex Acetosella):


Sheep's Sorrel

Common Names: Sheep’s Sorrel, Red Sorrel, Sourweed or Field Sorrel

Edible: Edibility good (see medical notes), taste is excellent.

Season: March to October

Identification: Pointed leaves with two spikes at the base. The leaves are lobed, and it produces yellow flowers between April and October.

Where to find: You can find Sheep’s Sorrel most commonly in meadows and pasture, hence the name. But any expanses of grassland such as parks or lawns are great areas to find it too.


Other types of Sorrel:


Pink Sorrel

Pink Sorrel (Oxalis articulata) looks like our very own Wood Sorrel, Pink Sorrel has been introduced to the UK and in some areas has become naturalised, Pink Sorrel originally comes from South America. Remarkably similar to Wood Sorrel in its look and edibility, instead of white flowers the flowers are pink.


More introduced Sorrels:


Over time, gardeners and plant importers have brought many other types of Sorrel to the UK from all over the world, particularly those from the Oxalis family which have now become naturalised. There are many types and all are good looking ornamental plants but, they have become invasive and if you have them in your garden you will know how difficult they are to get rid of.


The plants are all from the Oxalis family and include Yellow Sorrel, Yellow Creeping Sorrel, Pink Sorrel (another type of Pink Sorrel) and Pink Shamrock Sorrel. All members of the Oxalis family are edible.


Latin names include: Oxalis Corniculata, Oxalis Debilis, Oxalis Latifolia. See the RHS website for more details on these species.


Uses for Sorrel:


As we have already discussed, Sorrel in all its forms has been used to quench thirst and as a digestive. Medicinally, due to its high levels of Vitamin C it is also provides an excellent boost to the immune system, especially when coupled with the high levels of Vitamin A in that this humble plant provides as well. It is also said that the leaves act as a febrifuge, which means that they are good at relieving fever.


Outside of the consumption or medical uses of Sorrel, the juice or sap of Common Sorrel has previously been used to remove the stains from linen. The plant has also been used as a dye with the roots creating greens, greys and blues with the stems and leaves producing a blue-grey colour.


However, the primary use for Sorrel is for its taste. Its distinctive, sharp lemony flavour is a ‘must have’ in a whole host of dishes.


Sorrel Recipes:


All the varieties of Sorrel are simply delicious. Their sharp, lemony, green apple flavour acts the same as citrus juice, seasoning and heightening the taste of a sauce or salad. There are some classic recipes that utilise this wonderful herb, that includes the classic French Sorrel Sauce which is a great accompaniment to any fish, egg, potato, or pork dishes. Here is my simple Wild Sorrel Sauce recipe for you to try.


Wild Sorrel Sauce Recipe (Serves two hungry people)


Ingredients:

40g Butter

1 Clove of Garlic (Finely chopped or grated)

350g Assorted Wild Sorrel (Finely chopped)

50g Double Cream

Seasoning (Use white pepper if you have it to keep the colour)


Simply melt the butter in a pan, adding the garlic until you hear it starting to fry and colour slightly. Then gently stir in the Sorrel cooking gently until just wilted.

After that stir in the double cream and season to perfection. Serve it straight away and nice and hot.


Wild Sorrel Soup Recipe (Serves four)


Ingredients:

50g Butter

1 Small White Onion (fine dice)

1 Potato (fine dice)

1 litre of Vegetable Stock

350g of Assorted Wild Sorrel Leaves

1 Little Gem Lettuce

Small bunch of Parley (Chopped, separate the stalks)

Tsp Fennel Seeds

Double Cream (to finish)


Melt the butter in a large pan and gently fry the onion, potato, parsley stalks and fennel seeds for 5 minutes until the onion and potato is softened. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.


Next add the Sorrel and lettuce to the pan, cooking for a minute or two. Once wilted add the parsley leaves and season. Blend until smooth with a hand blender, then pour in a healthy glug of Double Cream. Blend again and serve in hot bowls.


Tip: I like to hold some of the Sorrel back from the cooking until the very end when I blend. This adds a freshness to the soup and helps to improve the colour too.


This soup is delicious on its own, however if you are feeling hungry (and we always are) try poaching an egg and setting it in the middle of the bowl before serving. Maybe add some crumbled feta cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and / or a swirl of olive oil too. Crunchy hot, buttery Sourdough toast is an essential side with this recipe.


Sorrel and the flavour that it lends to dishes is simply lovely. Its strong citrusy flavour a joy.


We have written a lot about this wonderful wild herb and many recipes including the delicious St George Mushrooms with Wild Sorrel on toast. Fillet of Cod with Garlic Mustard Mash and Sorrel Sauce as well as our Dead Nettle and Sorrel Quiche.


There are so many ways to use this herb outside of a garnish or a punchy addition to a spring salad, with its health benefits considered too, getting to know Sorrel in all of its forms and varieties is a must for the avid and hungry forager.


Get more Wild Food recipes by checking out our selection of Wild Food Cookbooks.



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