I have to admit to being slightly scared of sorrel. As a plant it looks unassuming but then I think about all that oxalic acid and I start to feel a little concerned.
The truth is that Sorrel is slightly poisonous, in fact all plants containing oxalic acid are but it’s the quantity that makes the difference. Spinach has very little, rhubarb leaves a lot more and sorrel sits somewhere in the middle. It has enough to make me slightly concerned but not concerned enough to stop growing it. Having said that I do feel slightly arthritic in my joints after eating a fair bit of it. Now this may well be psycho-somatic as although oxalic acid has been linked to gout it hasn’t been linked to arthritis (well not that I’m aware of anyway). From my very limited research on the subject there does seem to have been a man in Spain who died after eating sorrel soup. Whether there was a direct link to the soup, as opposed to say being hit by a bus just after lunch, is less clear as my Spanish is limited to; the ability to decipher menus and what I have picked up from watching Dora the Explorer. I have to say I haven’t found the ability to say ‘la segunda historia’ and thus access the second story to help save the crystal kingdom hugely useful thus far. All that aside the fact that sorrel does contain oxalic acid does make me a bit wary about feeding it to the kids (not that they are particularly partial to large volumes of green stuff anyway….).
If you have no children or didn’t develop paranoia the moment you became a parent then perhaps this is the herb for you. It is delicious and loaded with vitamin C after all.
How I grow Sorrel:
Sorrel (Runex acetosa) is a perennial herb so it really is a matter of sowing some seed in seed trays in early Spring (in Melbourne if not pretty much anywhere), waiting for it to germinate then planting it out when the plants become big enough. You could sow direct but the seeds are pretty small and I do find that when you only want a couple of plants it is easier to sow in a seed tray and then transplant the biggest and best later. The plant enjoys quite heavy feeding and you need to remove any flower heads that emerge to ensure leaf development (I also suspect it could self seed rather voraciously).
Sorrel tastes sour and slightly lemony – a bit like a leafy sumac if you are familiar with that flavour. I generally enjoy it raw and sliced really thinly in salads, and picking a leaf whenever I go past the plant. I do believe that blanching it in water may reduce its oxalic acid content (ie the acid is thrown out with the water) but I’m not sure.
I would be interested in other’s attitude to sorrel and its potentially poisonous qualities – a delicious source of vitamin C, or the path to kidney stones – you decide…..