Sorrel: A Delicious Plant that is Good for You!

From Prehistory to Today

Garden sorrel has been grown for human consumption since antiquity. It is a plant with edible leaves and stems, that has a pleasantly sharp, sour taste, and for centuries has been much used as an essential ingredient in French and Central and Eastern European cuisine. Made into a number of different soups and sauces, and often used in salad, it does contain a small amount of oxalic acid, which can be fatal in large quantities. However, a small amount of oxalic acid weekly or so, as you would get with normal use, will not harm you.

Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is native to England, and there is another common variety, French sorrel, (Rumex scutatus) with very similar properties to the English variety.

Garden Sorrel

Garden, or French sorrel
Garden, or French sorrel | Source

Cultivation

Because both garden and French sorrel are broad-leaved plants, either needs regular and plentiful moisture, and therefore, if you are growing this herb in a dry area, it will need regular watering and care. If you are having a drought, you will also want to give the plant extra care. Both varieties of this delicious plant are hardy and perennial but will not survive a major freeze (overnight freezes are fine as long as it is reasonably warm during the day). You can grow either kind of plant from seeds or by dividing a mature plant, and if you harvest the leaves regularly, you will always have a supply of young, fresh, tender leaves. This favourite garden herb grows about two feet high and blooms in June or July. The leaves spread out from the center of the plant, so allow eighteen inches to two feet between plants. The plant is dioecious (the stamens and pistils are on two separate plants), so you will need both a male plant and a female plant to fertilize and produce seeds for growing the next generation of plants.

Use

Unfortunately, the leaves lose much of their flavour when they are dried, so use the leaves fresh or frozen (chop up a leaf, put in an ice cube tray, fill with water, and freeze). You can use the leaves to make sauces and soups, add them raw to salads or casseroles, cook them like spinach or greens, or make them into a refreshing hot or iced tea. However, my absolute favourite way to use sorrel is to add it to mint and lemon balm, and puree it in a blender, and make a lovely, refreshing sorbet!

Please consume garden or French sorrel with caution, especially if you suffer from gout. If you have any concerns, please check with your physician before eating sorrel as a regular part of your diet.

Some Recipes

Sorrel Aïoli

Yields 1½ cups of aïoli

With its delicate flavour reminiscent of lemons, this incredible aïoli sauce complements fish, chicken and can even be used in place of mayonnaise in any recipe (or even on your favourite sandwiches). Don't forget about using it in bouillabaisse, too!

1 cup firmly packed sorrel leaves, torn into small bits
¼ cup chives, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 t lemon juice
½ t salt
1 cup walnut, hazelnut, avocado, olive or grapeseed oil

Put all of the ingredients in blender except the oil. Blend until a fine, smooth consistency is achieved. Remove the top of the blender (while it is running on low speed), and add the oil in a thin stream, until it forms an emulsion. Store the aïoli sauce tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Nutritional information (per serving): 86 calories; 0g proteins; 10g fat (1g saturated); 0g carbohydrates; 9mg cholesterol; 49mg sodium; 0g fiber; 0g sugars

Green Goddess Dressing

Yields 1½ cups

In addition to tossed salads, this Green Goddess dressing is great with chicken salad or tuna salad!

1 cup firmly packed sorrel, soft parts of leaves only (removing the ribs and stems)
¾ cup sour cream (the nutritional information given below is for low-fat sour cream)
½ cup chervil leaves
½ cup chopped chives
3 T olive oil
3 anchovies
2 T lemon juice
½ t sugar
¼ t lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in the blender, and blend to the desired consistency. Serve with salad, on sandwiches, or anywhere you can think of (I like it on crostini).

Nutritional information (per serving): 27 calories; 1g proteins; 2g fat (1g saturated); 2g carbohydrates; 3mg cholesterol; 75mg sodium; 0g fiber; 1g sugar

What is Sorrel Good for?

This wonderful herb is very nutritious, and contains very high levels of carotenoids, which consist of one-third carotene or provitamin A, the rest comprising lutein and zeaxanthin. As powerful antioxidants, carotenoids play a beneficial role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. These compounds have a specific protective effect on the retina. 200g of sorrel provides you with 30% of your daily iron requirements, 60% of your daily magnesium requirements, 90% of your daily vitamin B9 and C requirements and over 100% of your daily provitamin A requirements.

Is Sorrel Good for You?

The herb provides a good variety of vitamins and minerals (see the table for nutritional information below), as well as flavonoids, thought to be a powerful antioxidant. (What is an antioxidant? You can think of oxides in the body similar to rust; antioxidants remove oxides from the body, which help the body to function better.) The flavonoids which are present in this plant may deter certain kinds of cancer and generally enhance the functioning of the immune system. Recent studies conducted by the Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica, prove that sorrel has the ability to kill certain types of cancer cells. Sorrel tea is consumed daily in some African countries, and Mexican researchers have documented a significant reduction in triglyceride levels of persons who consume sorrel. (Elevated triglycerides are thought to correlate with heart disease.)

Studies from the Mexican Institute of Social Security show that ‘sorrel water’ (an infusion where fresh sorrel leaves are left to soak in water overnight) decreases cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It also prevents clogging of arteries which are the result of elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, and has been noted for its diuretic properties. Abigail Aguilar Contreras, a Mexican professor, recommends that people who wish to lose weight add drinking a liter of sorrel water (10 grams of sorrel to one liter of water) to their weight-loss regimen.

The anti-oxidant properties in the plant can also help fight other problems caused by free radicals, including aging of the skin, and free radicals are implicated in stroke and Alzheimer's disease as well.

Nutritional Benefits of Sorrel per 100 grams

 
Raw
Cooked
RDI
Calories
24
24
-
Protein
2g
1.8g
-
Carbohydrates
2.4g
1.9g
-
Fat
0.7g
0.6g
-
Fibre
0.8g
0.7g
30g
Sodium
4mg
3mg
-
Potassium
390mg
321mg
2,000mg
Iron
2.4mg
2.1mg
14mg
Magnesium
103mg
89mg
375mg
Provitamin A
2,400 µg
2,080 µg
4,800 µg
Vitamin C
48mg
26mg
80mg
Vitamin B9
150 µg
94 µg
200 µg

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Comments 5 comments

barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 6 years ago from Queensland Australia

Sorrel another i must check out !


classicalgeek profile image

classicalgeek 6 years ago Author

I love sorrel--I just wish I had a garden so I could grow it (now it's in a container, not thriving, and I have to be gentle in harvesting it). If you find it, try the sorbet--it's out of this world!


Sophie  6 years ago

Hi, the sorrel, mint and lemon balm sorbet sounds amazing - have already done a lemon balm one. What is the recipe or link please?

Thanks


classicalgeek profile image

classicalgeek 6 years ago Author

Here is the link for the recipe, Sophie: http://www.page360.net/recipe/20709/sorrel+mint+an... I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. (P.S. This is especially yummy served over peaches in the summer!)


SincerelyT profile image

SincerelyT 5 years ago from Canada

I absolutely love Sorrel!

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