Sorrel is a name for a group of leafy greens you can often find at farmers’ markets in the spring and summer. It goes well in salads, stir-fries, soups, casseroles, marinades, and with cream, yogurt, cheese, and fish.
Dock, another name for garden sorrel, is fresh, leafy green. Most grocery stores have a produce section where you can find garden sorrel and many other sorrels. It can be cooked or made into tea, juice, or jellies. Sheep’s sorrel is a flowering plant that you can buy as a herb, tonic, or tea at many naturopathic markets, specialty grocery stores, or online.
What is Sorrel?
Sorrel is a leafy green plant that can be used as both a herb and a vegetable. It has a sour, lemony flavour that makes it stand out. It comes from the same plant family as buckwheat and rhubarb. This family is called Polygonaceae, and it is also called a “dock.”
Sorrel is a leafy green that can be used as both a herb and a vegetable. It is grown in some parts of North America, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as in Europe and Central Asia. It tastes sour and a bit like lemon and is often used in soups, stews, and curries.
It is also used as a medicine because it is said to help digestion, reduce swelling, and heal mouth ulcers. French and common sorrel are the two types that are grown most often. Compared to common sorrel, French sorrel is less bitter and grows taller, with smaller and more rounded leaves.
Other species of sorrel include:
- sheep sorrel
- arctic dock
- patience dock
- broad-leaved sorrel
- red-veined sorrel
Varieties of Sorrel
There are several varieties of brown people consume, and that may be for sale at farmer’s markets.
Common sorrel- (Rumex acetosa) is the one you can buy and plant most easily at markets and nurseries. It has deep roots and will live for a long time if it can find a place it likes. It has a sharp taste and leaves in the shape of an arrow.
French sorrel- Rumex scutatus is also grown, so you’ll sometimes see it at markets. It tastes less bitter than regular sorrel, and its leaves are smaller and rounder.
Red-veined sorrel- As you might have guessed, (Rumex sanguineus) has deep red veins running through its leaves. It tastes very mild, almost nothing like sorrel, and it doesn’t have much of the tartness that this plant is known for. In a salad, it does stand out.
Sheep’s sorrel- A lot of the United States has wild Rumex acetosella. It’s about as sour as sorrel, but the leaves are smaller. It grows wild instead of being grown in a garden.
What does it Taste Like?
Sorrel has a flavour that is very bright and sour. People often say it tastes like lemons, which is likely because it is sour. It can be hard to work with because it has a lemony and deep grassy taste. Sorrel’s tart and bright taste make it great for giving potatoes, eggs, and whole grains a little more life. It tastes great with smoked or oily fish like salmon or mackerel.
Traditionally, sorrel is served with cream, sour cream, or yogurt. Even though cooked sorrel looks dull, it tastes bright and lively. At this time of year, no other vegetable has as much power or as many different parts. Sorrel is fruity like rhubarb, and it tastes sour like a lemon. Sorrel is a green, leafy vegetable related to buckwheat and tastes very different from other leafy greens. You might get a grassy taste, but it’s bitter and tangy, like a Granny Smith apple or kiwi.
- Many specialty stores and online shops sell both fresh and dried sorrel.
- Sheep sorrel is also in some herbal tea blends, like Essiac tea, which is often promoted as a natural way to treat cancer.
Sorrel can also be bought as a tincture or a capsule. Most supplements come in doses of 400–800 mg.
- Even though these products are said to improve detoxification, boost immune function, and reduce inflammation, no research has been done on how well they work, if they are safe, and if they have any side effects.
- Before taking herbal supplements, you should talk to your doctor if you already have a health problem or take medicine.
Cooking with Sorrel
Sorrel is right in the middle of herbs and greens. Use it as a leafy herb, like parsley, basil, or mint. Chop it up and use it in marinades and dressings, or stir it into soups or casseroles for a fresh flavour. Or, you can use it as green by tearing the tender leaves and putting them in salads and stir-fries.
Sorrel’s tart and bright taste make it great for giving potatoes, eggs, and whole grains a little more life. It tastes great with smoked or oily fish like salmon or mackerel. Traditionally, sorrel is served with cream, sour cream, or yogurt. This gives these plain foods a bright green colour and a sour taste, while their creamy fattiness softens the sharp taste of the sorrel.
Sorrel goes well with other cooked greens as well. Add a handful or two for a nice sour kick when cooking spinach, chard, or kale.
Sorrel is one of those rare ingredients you probably won’t find in a recipe you didn’t expect. You are much more likely to buy some sorrel and then look for ways to cook it.
Still, if you find a recipe that calls for sorrel and you want to find a replacement, you could add lemon juice or lemon zest. Sorrel can also be replaced with mustard greens, arugula, rhubarb, spinach, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Where to Buy Sorrel?
Look for sorrel at farmers’ markets and some specialty stores in the spring and summer. It can be very hard to find this one-of-a-kind herb. If you can’t find it, ask at the market near you. If no one wants it, farmers might not bring it to market.
- If you plan to use the sorrel within a day or two, loosely wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge. For longer storage, wash it, pat it dry, and roll the leaves in paper towels before putting them in the plastic. The paper towels will soak up any extra water, keeping the leaves dry but with enough moisture around them. If you use greens often, you should learn how to wash and store them.
- If you have more sorrel than you know what to do with, cook the leaves in some butter until they wilt and fall apart. The result will look like puréed sorrel. This puree can be frozen and added to soups or stews in the middle of winter to make them taste like spring.
- Wrap fresh sorrel loosely in a paper towel, put it in a plastic bag, and put it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Sorrel stays good for about a week to two weeks. Sorrel can be frozen, just like most other fresh herbs, but the texture may change when it is frozen. There are a few different ways to freeze something. You can cut the leaves and put them in an ice cube tray. Then you can add water and let it freeze. Or, you can put it in a baggie and remove the air, so it is vacuum sealed before putting it in the freezer.
What are the Health Benefits of Sorrel?
Sorrel has been linked to several powerful health benefits.
Rich in Antioxidants
Sorrel has a lot of antioxidants, which are good substances that protect your cells from damage by getting rid of dangerous free radicals. Antioxidants may help prevent heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, among other long-term conditions.
In particular, studies show that sorrel is rich in the following antioxidants
- phenolic acids
In a test tube study, the antioxidant properties of 10 plant extracts were compared, and red sorrel was found to have the most antioxidant activity. In another test-tube study, a sorrel called Rumex hastatus was shown to eliminate harmful free radicals. This suggests that it could be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
May Decrease Cancer Cell Growth
Even though there isn’t much research on people, studies on test tubes and animals have shown that sorrel might stop the growth and spread of some cancer cells. For example, a test-tube study showed that several types of sorrel killed cancer cells from the breast, the cervix, and the skin.
Also, in one study, rats with leukemia were given a mixture of brown extract and other ingredients like greater burdock, slippery elm, and Chinese rhubarb. This mixture stopped the rats from losing weight and increased the number of white blood cells. Still, more research is needed to discover how sorrel might affect the growth of cancer in humans when it is part of a healthy diet.
Supports Heart Health
Animal studies show that sorrel may be good for the heart in more than one way.
In a study with rats, it was found that sorrel extract changed some of the pathways involved in platelet aggregation, which is the process by which platelets in your blood stick together to stop blood clots from forming.
Animal studies have also shown that sorrel extract can help blood vessels widen, which can help stop high blood pressure.
Lastly, sorrel is full of fibre and antioxidants, which are good for your heart. Still, there aren’t enough studies on sorrel and heart health in people, and more research needs to be done to find out how this green affects the health of the human heart.
Sorrel can be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet for most adults in good health.
Still, sorrel may cause allergies in some people. If you get sick after eating it or are allergic to other plants in the same family, like rhubarb, buckwheat, or knotweed, you might want to stay away from it. Sorrel also has oxalate, a common plant compound that can stop minerals like calcium from getting into the body.
Calcium and oxalate can also stick together, making calcium oxalate kidney stones more likely to form. Calcium oxalate kidney stones are hard mineral deposits in the kidneys that can cause pain, nausea, and vomiting. But instead of cutting out foods like sorrel that are high in oxalate from your diet, try to eat more calcium, eat less salt, and drink a lot of water to help prevent calcium oxalate kidney stones.
Sorrel has a lemony, sour taste that works well in many recipes. It goes well with potatoes, carrots, chicken, and sour cream and is often used in soups and stews. Sorrel greens can also be used to add flavour to salads or to give vinaigrettes an extra kick.
Another popular way to use these greens is to make the sorrel sauce. It’s usually served with salmon or other seafood. Most recipes combine the tart flavour of sorrel with things like chives, heavy cream, butter, and chervil, which is a herb related to parsley. Sorrel is a green plant with leaves that can be used both as a herb and vegetable.
Its fruit is used to make drinks in some parts of the Caribbean. It has a lot of nutrients and antioxidants, like fibre, vitamin C, and magnesium. It might help keep the heart healthy and fight cancer, but more research on humans is needed. It can be made into herbal tea, taken as a supplement, or used to make soups, salads, and sauces taste better.