Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Sorrel: Rumex acetosa
I rarely see common garden sorrel being grown in vegetable or herb gardens and I guess it does have an unusual taste. The basis for the Eastern European sorrel soup, sorrel is a pretty, little green plant with sour, lemony leaves. The young leaves can be used (sparingly, to taste) in spring salads and gives them a nice bite. Sorrel is easy to grow, having few pests. It likes a sunny spot in the garden and will grow in a clump that should be divided every 3 to 5 years. Leaves are harvested young and very definitely before the plant is in flower, after which the leaf turns bitter. Several cuttings can be made before the plant sends up its flower spike. I have only purchased sorrel plants, and have not started it from seed.
The main use for sorrel in my kitchen is sorrel soup, which is a lovely green, sour, lemony dish. To make it:
I large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T unsalted butter
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced.
5 cups tightly packed sorrel leaves, or half and half sorrel and spinach (and you can use lesser amount of leaves)
1 t. grated nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 snipped chives, if desired, for garnish

In a 4 qt. saucepan, melt butter and saute onion and garlic until lightly colored (about 15 minutes). Add potatoes, sorrel, nutmeg, salt, pepper and stock to the sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 50 minutes. Allow to cool enough until it can be pureed. Puree in a food processor or blender. Reheat. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives. Can be frozen. Makes about 10 cups.
Happy eating! And Happy gardening!


steph finds that the.. said...

Hello! I just found your blog through the "Fed Up With School Lunch" blog and I have a question. I have a great appreciation for flowers, they are just gorgeous! But sadly I don't have a green thumb. =) Anyway I want to grow a Pink Crab Apple tree, and I really want to ensure I'll keep this tree going for years. I live in the Chicago area, I hope that helps to indicate if this tree should be grown in this area, or if I should opt for another kind of tree. Then any reccomendations as to ensuring this tree grows and keeps growing would be great!


Anonymous said...

Yum to sorrel soup. As a child, I was sent out to gather what my mother called 'wild sorrel' -- or, sourgrass. It was a small plant with leaves that looked like an elongated, filled-in, capital letter "A" on a stem. As kids, we used to chew on it for the sour taste. Are these two plants related? I bet your soup is wonderful, as many old-world soups are! Wonderful flavors with inexpensive ingredients (excepting one's time and energy).

Judy Thomas said...

Hi Steph,
Crab apples can do well in the Chicago area. I have seen really beautiful examples of them in bloom all throughout Indiana and Illinois, Michigan too. Crab apples are pretty sturdy trees, but, as always, go to a good plant nursery and ask about disease-resistant varieties for your area. If you live in an area subject to the famous "Windy City" winds, than winter protection is important for the first few years. Wrapping the tree in burlap in late fall, and removing it in early spring, is a good start. Here in VA we plant trees in fall to give them a good start and I recommend that for you too- that way you have less transplant shock and the tree has time to settle in and root before budding. We especially have to plant then as our summers here are scorchers. The Dean of Green is a garden podcast out of Normal (ISU) and he takes questions like this at the web site for WGLT- just google Dean of Green. He would be an expert to ask, or, at least, has access to other experts on ISU campus.

Judy Thomas said...

Hi Anonymous,
It sounds like the same plant. I will have to do some research first before I would suggest you go eating wild plants in quantity. Garden sorrel is a cultivated plant, bred for eating, so I recommend buying one. It was brought over by early settlers and may have escaped into the wild, becoming the sour grass you describe (other edible escapees brought over to the US from Europe include asparagus and dandelion). It does make a great, and unusual, soup.

Anita said...

As much as I would like to say that I'm going to run to the grocery store and then to the kitchen to whip up this soup, it may be some time before it happens. Until then, do you know of restaurants in the area that serve dishes made with all the various veggies you talk about in your blog?
Drop me an email (or on this post) some day if you know of such an earthy place to eat that won't make me break open my piggy bank.

Judy Thomas said...

Hi Anita,
To get sorrel soup, you have to make it-I have never seen it on a restaurant menu, though it is probably somewhere in the Northeast(especially as schav, the soup of Eastern European Jews). And to make sorrel soup, you have to grow sorrel, I have never seen that in a grocery either. There are many healthful and interesting foods we just cannot buy (like a decent summer tomato, esp. the quirky heirlooms) despite the explosion in grocery sections over the last 20 years.

Wilson said...

what an exciting experience!/hilarious! Delightful! True!
Organic Gardens