Sorrel: Tastes like kiwi with a lemony zest

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 05:54 PM

Cooking with homegrown herbs is more popular than ever! Can you identify this herb? It’s green, used in salads and has the unique flavor reminiscent of kiwi with a lemony zing? It’s sorrel! Rich in potassium and vitamins A, B1 and C, sorrel has been part of healthful diets and botanic medicine for thousands of years.

This easy to grow perennial has a lemony tang and succulent spinach texture that is best served in combination with other foods. Sorrel has a flavor affinity for butter, soft cheeses, chicken, cucumber, eggs, fish (especially salmon), lamb, leeks, lentils, lettuce, mussels, pork, potato, salmon, scallion, shad, shallots, sour cream, spinach, sweetbreads, tomatoes, and veal. Sorrel combines well with borage, chervil, chives, dill, lovage, parsley, and tarragon.

Sorrel wilts quickly after picking but does not lose its flavor. To keep sorrel fresh, do not wash the leaves until just before eating. Immerse the leaves in water and shake them delicately but do not soak them.

Cook sorrel with the stems removed. To remove the stems, simply fold the leaves in half lengthwise and pull off the stem.

Here’s some ideas for using sorrel:

Add a few shredded leaves to baked and scrambled eggs. Fill an omelet with sorrel and shallots cooked in butter.Sorrel makes a tasty, fresh leaf addition to mixed-green salads, sandwiches, and soft cheeses.Cook sorrel with leek soups, cream-based sauces, stuffing, veal, and pork.Sorrel is ideal to line the vessel for baking fish.Use raw shredded garden sorrel in salads for a zesty spinach flavor. Be sure to reduce the vinegar or lemon in accompanying dressings to compensate for the acidity of sorrel and whisk a little local honey into the dressing to counter sorrel’s acidity.Select young, tender sorrel leaves for the best flavor. Leaves should be bright green. Young, tender sorrel is best with salads and other greens; otherwise, use sorrel cooked. Medium to large sorrel leaves are likely to be too acidy for use uncooked.To make French sorrel sauce, cook the sorrel in a little butter, add fish or chicken stock and cream and stir until smooth.Sorrel makes a good garnish for fish and veal. Sorrel can be used to tenderize meat: wrap around steaks or add pounded leaves to marinade.The lemony leaves are excellent in the cracked wheat salad known as tabouli.Italian salsa verde is made from raw sorrel, watercress, and onion chopped and blended to a creamy emulsion with oil and vinegar and served with poultry or fish. 

Growing Garden sorrel:

Plant 2 or 3 sorrel plants per household member.Plant seedlings 8 to 10 inches apart in semi-shade, or in parts of the garden that do not get full sun during the hottest part of the day. Once established, your sorrel will continue for many years. If you’d like to replant them in different areas, you can lift and divide them every five years or so and transplant them to new ground.Sorrel grows best in well-worked, well-drained soil rich in organic material. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting. Sorrel prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.Keep sorrel quite well-watered. After the first year, when it emerges anew in spring apply a balanced organic fertilizer and mulch it with some compost.Sorrel leaves are 6 to 12 inches long with a thin flowering stalk that can reach 2 feet in height. It’s best to cut off the flower stems as they emerge to encourage new leaves.Leaves can be harvested any time after the first couple of months of spring growth. As the season progresses, sorrel’s distinct taste develops. 

Mary Roberts and Ray Tarlton are owners and managers of  Windcrest Farm, a USDA Certified Organic farm and greenhouse in Monroe, NC . Visit for more information about plants, produce and classes. Facebook: Windcrest Farm Organics