Sorrel is an herb which is used as a leafy green vegetable. The French word is surelle, which means "sour". The French name refers to the sour taste of the leaves. Mountain sorrel is very similar to wood sorrel and both are similar to regular spinach. They all have high levels of oxalates which gives the vinegar-like taste and should not be consumed in large quantities. Oxalates can irritate the intestinal tract and can cause poisoning if too much is consumed.
If purchasing sorrel as opposed to foraging, make sure the leaves are firm and shiny. They tend to wilt very quickly after being picked; the shelf life is not long at all so it's best to consume them right away or look for ways to preserve them. Their pods look like tiny okra pods.
Sorrel is high in Vitamin A, B, and C.
Sorrel grows in somewhat mountainous regions in small patches across North America but it also grows wild in our backyards in Southern Alberta!
Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada p 324
Sorrel originates in Northern Asia and Europe. Here in Canada, pickled cucumbers with sorrel was considered a delicacy in the early 1900's. It was used to treat scurvy due to its high vitamin content.
Ways to Cook
Sorrel can be used like spinach or other leafy greens. Use the leaves:
- in salads
- as stuffing
- sautéed and just wilted
- for dips and purées
- infused for tea
- in velouté sauces
- egg dishes like omelettes
Remember that the taste is quite sour. Some people boil them in 2 changes of water to remove the strong sourness.
The sourness can be desirable, however, if paired with fatty fish, veal, or cream for example.