Botanical Name: Rumex acetosa
Some other names: Sorrel, Common Sorrel, English Sorrel, Spinach Dock, Narrow Leafed Dock.
How to grow it:
Sorrel is amazingly hardy, growing all year round in frost free climates, and much of the year in colder climates in just about any soil type.
It has deep roots making it quite tolerant to drought, but the leaves can get a bit chewy & sharp. In moist conditions, it will grow prolifically & provide plenty of succulent leaves.
Sorrel is an attractive plant too it would be equally at home in a garden bed with shrubs or flowers as it is in the vege garden. I like to have it in a few spots in the garden (full sun & part shade) & will pick from the one that has the most succulent leaves at the time.
It will also do very well in pots, but needs to be divided regularly as it will become potbound quickly.
Addition of fertiliser will only make Garden sorrel more prolific than it already is, but it seems just as happy when left to pull nutrients deep from the ground with it’s long roots.
Propogation is easy once you have one plant established – just simply dig up the whole plant, divide it into clumps with your spade (see photo below) & replant or put it into pots. Within a couple of weeks it will resprout & you can start eating the leaves immediately.
In my climate (sub-tropics), I’ve never seen garden sorrel seed, but in cooler climates seed can be collected in autumn or the plant just allowed to self-seed. It’s a very common plant – you should find it at most herb nurseries or you can get seeds online.
Sorrel has high levels of vitamin C along with Vitamin A & B. It also contains calcium, potassium, iron & sulphur. Very nutritious for something so easy to grow!
Using it in the kitchen:
Sorrel leaves have a sour taste that varies in intenisty depending on which leaves you pick. The young leaves growing from the centre of the plant are very mild and the outer leaves can get quite sharp in taste particularly if grown in full sun in the hotter weather. So just pick leaves according to your own taste.
Use young leaves in salads and sandwiches they’ll add a mild flavour and have nice texture.
Older leaves can also be used fresh, but this will be according to your taste. You can also use older leaves in stir fries, soups, quiches, casseroles and omelettes generally in combination with other greens.
Sorrel is an obvious candidate for survival food as it is so hardy & prolific. I’ve never thought about preserving because it’s always available fresh from the garden
I occasionally feed it to chickens & add leaves to the compost or mulch, but mostly I just eat it.
Would be good for erosion control or on the edge of gardens as it outcompetes all weeds.
If you like the flavour, try sheep sorrel – it has much smaller leaves and a sharper taste, but is higher in nutrients & has greater medicinal value.
It’s also worth learning about yellow dock – a common weed. In a survival situation it could be used in cooking the same as garden sorrel, but it’s definitely worth preboiling to reduce the sharp taste and oxalates.