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Grow Sorrel, a Versatile, Lemony Green

4/19/2010 4:56:24 PM

Tags: sorrel, salad, greens

Sorrel bunchWhenever I’m giving a tour of my garden and offer visitors a taste of sorrel, their faces light up and they usually say, “Wow. That’s wonderful.” Sorrel has a lovely lemony-tart flavor that makes a superb addition to all kinds of salads. I use it in all my green salads and also in tabouli (Middle Eastern bulgur wheat salad) where it substitutes nicely for lemon juice. Recently I made a coleslaw and included sorrel and kale along with cabbage, and dinner guests all gave the combo an A+.

There are many reasons to grow sorrel. Not only does it give you a unique flavor to work with in the kitchen, but the plants are perennial, coming up in early spring. In my book, this is an essential, easy-to-grow crop for any food garden. To read more about sorrel, including tons of information on recommended varieties, read Zesty Sorrel.

If you grow sorrel from seed in the summer, it tends to “bolt” (shifts from growing leaves to sending up a flower stalk). Removing the stalks helps keep new leaves coming, or you can order a non-bolting variety called ‘Profusion’ sorrel from the world-renowned mail-order herb company, Richters. We asked Conrad Richter to tell us a little more about ‘Profusion’ sorrel; here are his comments:
What can you tell us about the background of ‘Profusion’ sorrel? 

The variety was discovered by a Richters customer who gave it to us to market about 20 years ago.

‘Profusion’ is superior to seed grown varieties because it does not develop the bitterness and tough texture that seed grown varieties do when they flower and go to seed. Also, the leaves are wider, more succulent and more tender than typical seed-grown material. We never compared yields quantitatively, but our impressions are that yields are comparable to seed varieties. Really, the only disadvantage of the variety is that it must be propagated by division, which makes it more expensive for commercial growers to establish. But in every other way, the variety is superior.

Also, I should mention, some people are irritated by the many sorrel seedlings that sometimes show up around the seed-grown plants. Seed-grown sorrels are not hard to control and thus are not “weedy,” but this is obviously not an issue with ‘Profusion.’

Richters introduced the variety originally. The name ‘Profusion’ is our registered trademark. We reserve all rights to the use of the name for commercial sale of the variety.

When/how is the best time to divide it if someone wants to create more plants for the garden?

The plant can be divided successfully any time, from spring to fall. For both overwintering success and greater-sized material to divide, it is probably best to divide in summer.

What are your favorite ways to use sorrel in salads or in recipes?

Sorrel is one of those herbs we love to use in very simple ways. Just adding the leaves to salads or sandwiches is, for us, a treat. Because the herb is perennial, it is a treat to be able to pick leaves from spring to early winter whenever we think of it. I personally don’t have the time to bother with sorrel soup or other cooked dishes — I just prefer sorrel fresh. 

You can usually find seed-grown sorrel in the herb section at garden centers. Non-bolting ‘Profusion’ is available from Richters Herbs; Goodwood, ON, L0C 1A0, Canada; 905-640-6677.

Photo by iStockPhoto/Tatiana Mironenko

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4/21/2010 1:20:26 PM
In the "Garden Sorrel" article on this website, Mother Earth news writes, "Like all true sorrels, these two have a high binoxalate of potash content . . . which makes their foliage strongly acidic. Because of this, one should "go easy" when ingesting the plants or their juices, since the consumption of large quantities may result in internal irritation." Do you happen to have any information on roughly how much sorrel is considered a "large quantity"? In our family, we love when sorrel's in season--how concerned should we be about over-consumption?

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