30 June 2016
Snacking on Summer Sorrel
Walking in the woods on a hot afternoon or working in the garden, I often find myself nibbling on wood sorrel for thirst-quenching refreshment. This widespread, wild edible is familiar to many—some call it “sour grass” or refer to the tiny fruits as “sorrel pickles”. Children seem particularly fond of foraging and eating those little “pickles”.
Wood sorrel, or Oxalis spp., is particularly abundant in Appalachia and the lemony flavor of the leaves and fruits make it a wonderful trail-side snack or a tasty addition to your wild salads. Although it resembles clover, the cluster of three, heart-shaped “sweetheart” leaves, five-petal, yellow flowers and tiny, cucumber-like seedpods readily identify wood sorrel.
If you have wood sorrel in your salad, no worries if you don't have lemon for your dressing--sorrel also provides that zesty sourness. It’s also a good garnish for fish and a wonderful seasoning for soups and sauces. Wood sorrel is an excellent source of Vitamin C, though, as its botanical name would suggest, it’s high in oxalic acid (as well as ascorbic acid). Oxalic acid binds calcium in the digestive system, so you wouldn’t want to eat a plate full of sorrel. Moderation is the key here.
Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is similar in its properties, even though the two aren’t botanically related. Sheep sorrel is actually more closely related to yellow dock but, interestingly, shares both the flavor and nutritional properties of wood sorrel: high levels of Vitamin C, as well as oxalic acid. Sheep sorrel features small whale-shaped leaves and has been cultivated with larger leaves into the culinary favorite, French sorrel.
Do you see one of these sorrels at your doorstep? If you're not already snacking on your sorrel as you pass, go ahead and harvest some next time you're out. I'm sure that you, too, will love them for their wholesome, wild goodness and the zing that they bring to your summer table.