The name sorrel is used to describe several related plants. The name comes from the French for ‘sour’ (sœur), and it is true that the leaves, which are the edible part of the plant, have a sharp acidity. If you look on line for the names of the different varieties you will quickly find that there is a degree of overlap, with some sites assigning different common names to different physical forms. So I’m going with the names assigned by The Red Shed Nursery.
Common Sorrel ( also known as Garden Sorrel, Narrow Leaved Dock and Spinach Dock ) has large, narrow, bright-green, arrow-shaped leaves which have a smooth, crisp texture. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads, younger smaller leaves are the best, or cooked in soups, purées and stuffings and sorrel goes particularly well with fish and egg dishes.
French Sorrel has an even more citrus flavour and the leaves add a tang to salads.
Buckler leaf sorrel, which I know as Lemon Sorrel, has tiny, shield-shaped leaves that are good in a mixed green salad or as a garnish. Unsurprisingly, the leaves have a definite lemony taste.
Finally, red veined sorrel, which I know as Ruby Sorrel or Bloody Dock. This is the least acidic of the sorrels and is great in salads, adding colour as well as taste.
While the images are of sorrel growing in different parts of the garden it is a really common plant and can be readily foraged for free.
Note: While sorrel is a great addition to salads but shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities as it contains a high amount of oxalic acid.
The BBC website has some great recipes using sorrel here
If you are going to forage, please follow the simple guidelines:
- Always be sure you are sure of the plant before you pick it and never eat any plant you are unsure of.
- Leave plenty behind for wildlife.
- Make sure you have permission to pick
- Only pick where plants are plentiful