Of the two kinds of Sorrel cultivated for use as vegetables or salads, Rumex acetosa, the Garden Sorrel, is an indigenous English plant generally found in pastures where the soil contains iron.
In the time of Henry VIII, this plant was held in great repute in England, for table use, but after the introduction of French Sorrel, with large succulent leaves, it gradually lost its position as a salad and a potherb, and for many years it has ceased to be cultivated.
Sorrel is well known for the grateful acidity of its herbage, which is most marked when the plant is in full season, though in early spring it is almost tasteless.
Sorrel as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts are the fresh leaves and the whole herb. The stem is red-tinged, and the herb has a sour taste. It gets its acidity from the same salt that is present in Rhubarb.
The plant is also called 'Cuckoo's-meate' from an old belief that the bird cleared its voice by its agency. In Scotland it is 'gowkemeat.'
The medicinal action of Sorrel is refrigerant and diuretic, and it is employed as a cooling drink in all febrile disorders. Sorrel is especially beneficial in scurvy.
A syrup made with the juice of fumitory and sheep sorrel had the reputation of curing the itch, and the juice, with a little vinegar, was considered a cure for ringworm, and recommended as a gargle for sore throat.
Culinary Uses for Sorrel
In Ireland Sorrel are still largely consumed by the peasantry with fish and milk. English country people used to beat the herb to a mash and take it mixed with vinegar and sugar, as a green sauce with cold meat, hence one of its popular names: Greensauce.
Stems are used in eggs, salads, cream cheese, sauces and soups. Flowers, fresh and in season, are used in salads.
French Sorrel (Perennial): Lemon-flavored lettuce-like leaves. Recommended uses are salads and soups.
Sorrel Sauce Recipe
Saute 1 bunch (3 to 4 cups) sorrel leaves (washed, stemmed and roughly chopped) in 2 tablespoons butter until sorrel wilts, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cream and continue cooking and stirring until the sorrel has melted and become creamy, 5 to 8 minutes. Cool sauce to room temperature. Taste when cool and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the sorrel sauce to 1 cup yogurt and stir until well blended. Serve as a dip for vegetables or to accompany grilled foods like lamb, chicken, or salmon.
Sorrel with Roasted Potatoes Recipe
Roast 1 pound potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender. Toss with 1 cup sorrel leaves (washed, stemmed and roughly chopped) and 2 ounces of diced sausage or crisply cooked bacon. Serve with roasted or grilled meats or for breakfast or supper with eggs.
"In February, in the New of the Moon, sow Borage, Coriander, Marjoram, Radish, Rosemary and Sorrel." - Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, 1683
Large amounts can irritate kidneys and produce symptoms of poisoning.
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