Sorrel sounds romantic, like a secret mushroom, special tincture or magical word used to conjure fawns to appear by your side. However, sorrel is none of these things — it’s a simple perennial herb that sprouts eagerly from the ground each spring. While it looks like any old lettuce, its tang and brightness are positively bewitching, almost as if the leafy plant were made of lemon zest. Play with this ingredient, because not only does it add a nice layer of flavor to many dishes, it’s hard to mess up! A quick note before you begin: Common sorrel is not the same as Jamaican sorrel, which is a magenta-hued plant that falls into the same family as the hibiscus flower and will color your meal pink.
- Dakota Soifer’s Sorrel Pesto
- Ryan Taylor’s Sorrel Yogurt
- Classic French Sorrel Sauce
- Bloody Dock Care: How To Grow Red Veined Sorrel Plants
- What is Red Veined Sorrel?
- Is Bloody Dock Edible?
- How to Grow Red Veined Sorrel
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- Growing Advice
- Sorrel Plant: How To Grow Sorrel
- Sorrel Plant
- Planting Sorrel
- How to Grow Sorrel
- Harvesting Sorrel Herb
- Growing sorrel in home gardens
- Tips and Tricks for Growing Sorrel
- Care for Sorrel
Where it’s from
Until recently, most American chefs didn’t utilize sorrel. Most of the recipes I found come from France, where the plant has been used for centuries medicinally, as well as in soups and stews. Before the French, evidence of sorrel consumption can be found in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, where the herb was used to add acidity to rich, heavy foods, much like we do today. In fact, the word “sorrel” comes from the Germanic word “sur” and the old French word “surele,” both meaning “sour.” This is exactly the profile the plant imparts and why it’s been used not only in the aforementioned countries, but all over the world, including in Romania, Nigeria, Hungry, Russia, India and Vietnam.
Over the years, sorrel has grown to encompass many similar green-leafed herbs including patience, spinach dock or narrow-leaf dock, sheep sorrel, wood sorrel, belleville sorrel and most common, French or garden sorrel. While these all hail from different families and genuses, they all maintain similar characteristics, namely the texture, color and a sharp, tangy essence due to naturally occurring oxalic acid.
Aside from adding flavor, the leaves are used to aid digestion, treat liver problems and cure throat and mouth ulcers. Because sorrel provides a hefty dose of fiber, vitamins A, C and B6, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium, it’s considered a health food. Most medicinal consumption of sorrel comes in tea form, which is a nice way to end a heavy meal if you’re looking for a nonalcoholic digestif.
When it’s in season
Sorrel is in season in late spring until mid-summer, usually May to June. And because it grows like a weed and thrives in all sorts of conditions, you can find the plant all over the country.
What To Look For
Right now is the time to start looking for the long, emerald-hued leaves of the common sorrel plant. They are sold in bunches like any other green and either have long leaves or smaller round ones. Wild wood sorrel also can be found in the late spring and early summer months. With three heart-shaped “folded” leafs, this variety looks a lot like clover, though it also has small yellow flowers and seed pods that look like tiny okra. You can also forage for sheep sorrel, which has arrow-shaped leaves more like the classic French variety found in the market. No matter where you go to find your sorrel, get crisp leaves with an even green hue.
How to store it
Prepare sorrel soon after buying or harvesting it. The leaves will last longer washed and pressed between damp paper towels in a plastic container in the fridge, but their one- to two-week shelf life is shorter than spinach, kale or romaine. You can also dry sorrel to use as an herb, but it will lose some flavor.
How to prepare it
First, try it raw. Next, work it into pasta dishes, wilt into soups, wrap your beef in it before grilling and daintily lace the next whole fish you serve. Sorrel really can be used in any capacity. “At its peak, sorrel has a bright, tangy acidity that adds a huge depth of flavor to a dish to make it pop,” says chef Ryan Taylor of the Colorado-based Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group. “I like to use sorrel in contrast to certain dishes with creamy cheeses like chèvre or a more oily fish like salmon to cut the fattiness and really brighten up a dish perfect for spring.” One way Taylor works with sorrel is by combining it with yogurt to make a rich topping for his citrus-cured salmon salad (yogurt recipe below).
At Cafe Aion in Boulder, Colorado, chef Dakota Soifer whips up a stunning pesto with fresh sorrel (recipe below), a sauce he thinks the herb was meant for. “I love the lemon and acid component that comes along with the unique herby-ness of sorrel,” says Soifer. “The fatty and slightly salty Marcona almonds balance the dish out really nicely.” Soifer also uses the pesto as a riff on the traditional French pistou and will add a last-minute dollop to his homemade soups. In general, you can think about using sorrel in anything that calls for a bit of acid or that would benefit from a dash of tangy citrus flavor. Throw some raw leaves into a mixed-green salad, cook it down and add as a side or take the advice from these chefs and turn it into a bright accoutrement to your main dish.
Dakota Soifer’s Sorrel Pesto
“This pesto goes beautifully with fish given its lemony character,” says the chef.
- 1/2 pound sorrel, thick stems removed
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup Marcona almonds
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated on a microplane
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a food processor, blitz garlic with a pinch of salt.
- Add almonds, blitz quickly, then add sorrel. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil to achieve the desired consistency. Remember, it will thicken a little when you add the cheese.
- Stir grated Parmesan in by hand. Soifer notes, “You get a better consistency if you don’t put the cheese in the food processor.”)
Ryan Taylor’s Sorrel Yogurt
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 generous handful of red-veined sorrel
- Pinch salt to taste
- Juice of one lemon
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Put yogurt in a bowl or mixer and whip until it starts to peak.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
Sometimes simple is best. Sorrel sauce is a bedrock sauce in classic French cuisine, and while not quite a “mother sauce,” it is as versatile as it is easy to make. After all, there are only really four ingredients to it.
First off, however, I need to tell you about sorrel. Rumex acetosa, common garden sorrel, is one of my favorite things to grow in my garden. Why? For starters, it’s ridiculously easy to grow. It’s basically a weed with a deep root network. Drought tolerant, good to eat all year round, self sowing — hell, it’s borderline invasive.
What do you do with it? Well, sorrel is a hybrid herb and vegetable. It looks like a lettuce, but it tastes like lemonade in a leaf. That tartness comes from oxalic acid, the same stuff in rhubarb. But sorrel does indeed make a cool salad green. I love it in sandwiches, as an accent in salads, in sorrel soup, another French standby, and of course in this sauce.
Garden sorrel also has wild relatives. Oxalis is one — here in California there is a non-native oxalis with shamrock leaves and warm yellow flowers — there is also wood sorrel, a common weed, as well as sheep sorrel. Both of these last two grow wild all over the United States and Canada. You can absolutely use these sorrels in the kitchen, too, although they are a lot smaller.
Once you have your sorrel, you really ought to make this sauce. The cream tames the sometimes harsh acidity of sorrel, and the result is a lush, balanced sauce that is absolutely ideal for light meats and eggs. It’s the yin to the subtle yang you get with a piece of poached fish or poultry.
The ultimate classic is salmon with sorrel sauce (my version of that dish is here), but sorrel sauce is wonderful with any white fish, with poultry like turkey, pheasant or chicken, as well as with egg dishes.
There are lots of versions of this sauce, but here I adapt a stripped down classic that I first read in Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. My advice: If you catch fish or hunt wild turkeys, or if you like poached meats or eggs, memorize this sauce. You will not be sorry.
5 from 4 votes
Classic French Sorrel Sauce
Sorrel can be tricky to find in markets, although I do see it in farmer’s markets occasionally. Your best bet is to grow it. Sorrel is indestructible in the garden and grows really easily. I planted a few plants in 2004 and they’re still going strong, and expand every year. You can buy sorrel seeds online or in most seed catalogs. Or you can use wild sorrel. Prep Time10 mins Cook Time15 mins Total Time25 mins Course: Sauce Cuisine: French Keyword: sauce, sorrel Servings: 10 Calories: 90kcal Author: Hank Shaw
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 pound sorrel leaves, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons vermouth, or chicken or vegetable stock
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- Chiffonade the sorrel by curling up a few leaves at a time and slicing them very thin.
- Pour the cream in a small pot and bring it to a simmer. Doing this will prevent it from curdling when it hits all that acidic sorrel in a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, in another small to medium pot, heat the butter over medium heat and add the sorrel. Cook the sorrel, stirring often, until it melts — it will cook down a lot and turn Army green. When it does, stir in the cream and bring the sauce to a bare simmer. It will be pretty thick, so you’ll want to add the vermouth or stock to thin it out. You can add another tablespoon if you want the sauce even thinner. Add salt and white pepper to taste and serve.
Once you make this sauce, you’ll need to use it; it doesn’t keep well, although it will be OK on the stovetop kept warm for an hour or two.
Calories: 90kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 12mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 610IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 1mg
More Sauces for Game and Fish
You can find all sorts of sauces for game or fish here on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
Imagine a trendy green that can grow on your windowsill, has a super-long season, and is the missing piece to unlocking your greatest spring fish, and you’ve pretty much come up with sorrel. This flavorful little leaf brightens everything it touches, yet it remains an unknown quantity to most home cooks. So, below, a sorrel introduction.
What is sorrel?
Sorrel is a small edible green plant from the Polygonaceae family, which also includes buckwheat and rhubarb. The French translation of sour (“sorrel”) is spot-on: These leaves have an intense lemony tang. In Vietnamese cuisine, sorrel leaves are known as rau thom (fresh herb), and it’s called gowkemeat in Scotland. For our purposes, though, let’s just call it sorrel.
There are three major varieties to know: broad leaf, French, and red-veined sorrel. Broad leaf sorrel has slender, arrow-shaped leaves. French or Buckler leaf sorrel has small, bell-shaped leaves, while red-veined sorrel has a slender, tapered leaf with the namesake screaming red veins throughout.
Photo by When is Sorrel Season?
Sorrel starts showing up in the spring and gets progressively more bitter as the months progress. Leaves will constantly grow from the plant’s center from early spring to late fall, making it a green that’s almost always in season.
It’s an incredibly easy plant to grow—other than occasional weeding and harvesting, sorrel doesn’t need much babysitting in the soil. It’s a perennial, fast-growing, and winter-resistant green, meaning if you’re looking at a spring garden, you should stock up on sorrel.
How Do I Use It?
Short leaves: raw. Large leaves: cooked
That’s the very simplified-but-foolproof way to think sorrel. The younger leaves can be a lot more tender and don’t hold up well in cooking, so use them as garnishes to spring dishes or in uncooked dishes.
Like many other spring greens (like broccoli rabe or stinging neetles), sorrel has a pronounced flavor. You wouldn’t want to eat just a salad of sorrel, so mix young leaves with milder lettuces. Blanching also helps tone down the bitterness.
Think of the way a zippy, acidic white wine cuts through a fatty or oily fish. Sorrel—with plenty of lemony crunch—works a similar magic. Use it in purees, sauces, and oils alongside heartier mains.
Some chefs like David Kinch even use it in sweet applications like the dark chocolate and sorrel ice cream at Manresa in Los Gatos, California.
What are sorrel’s health benefits/risks?
Sorrel is loaded with vitamins A and C, which are great for your immune system. Besides boosting up your fish entree, the leafy green also gives a good boost for your heart health. Its high potassium content can play a welcome role in lowering your blood pressure, and it increases blood circulation.
It also contains oxalic acid, a naturally occurring compound found in greens like spinach, kale, and sorrel. Oxalic acid is lethal in high enough doses, but unless you’re putting away almost 10 pounds of spinach on a daily basis, you don’t need to worry. Chances are if you need to avoid these foods, your doctor has already told you so. And if it’s any consolation, combining calcium-rich dairy products with oxalic acid reduces the minor impact.
This is great and everything, but I can’t find sorrel anywhere. Is there any kind of substitute?
If you’re not feeling up to growing your own or can’t find sorrel on sale anywhere, there are plenty of substitutes. To mimic the bitter flavors of sorrel, use kale with the stems removed—it’ll boost up the flavor of a pesto.
Buckler Leaf Sorrel is a superb salad crop. It has all the best qualities of common sorrel but is a much smaller, more compact plant. With distinct leaves that are shaped like a shield, it is a much more attractive and compact container crop.
It has the same vibrant, lemony taste, but is less sour and it has a softer texture so it works well as a salad ingredient or as an herb to flavour fish and egg dishes.
Buckler Leaf Sorrel, sometimes called ‘True French Sorrel’ is very easy to grow, producing green leaves throughout summer and winter. Use young leaves in salads and cook with the mature leaves.
Sorrel is practically speaking, an ‘herb-vegetable’ or ‘pot-herb’ as it can be cooked like a vegetable, while it has a distinctive lemony flavour like an herb. It can be harvested at baby leaf stage and is a great lettuce substitute in salads and sandwiches as it doesn’t go limp. It is most delicious when cooked; the flavour is delightfully acidic. It is a fantastic partner to fish, veal, eggs, and potatoes in soup or gratin.
This hardy perennial pot herb can even withstand freezing winters. Once established, it can be treated as a ‘cut and come again’ crop. The plant should produce greens for 8 to 10 years. Sorrel is one of the earliest green crops and embarrassingly easy to grow, once you’ve got a clump going it needs no attention other than when you want to eat it.
Sorrel prefers a sunny (or partially-shaded) spot with a reasonably-fertile and moisture-retentive soil, but thrives even in heavy soil. It may need partial shade in very hot areas.
If you don’t have space in the garden, a large pot filled with good quality compost will make a great home for your plants. Just remember that pot-grown plants will need more watering and feeding than those in the ground.
French sorrel may also be cultivated indoors for use during the winter months.
Sowing: Sow in Spring or in Autumn to overwinter.
Seeds can be sown at any time of year but are best sown in spring once the temperature warms a little.
If the weather is against you and it’s just too cold for planting seeds outside, they can be sown into small pots indoors. Use modular seed trays filled with seed compost and keep them in a greenhouse or cold frame until the seedlings are ready for transplanting outside.
Modular-raised sorrel seedlings should be moved from their trays to the vegetable garden in the late spring. Space 30cm (1ft) apart and plant to the same depth as in their original containers. Water well to help them establish.
A week before sowing the seeds outdoors, fork and rake over the ground several times to establish a soil surface with a fine and level tilth free of all weeds and large stones – and scatter a general organic fertiliser over the site.
The tiny seeds are best sown in 5mm (¼in) deep seed drills (rows). Lightly water the base of the drill, sow the seeds thinly inside and cover with soil – and label the site so you know which crop is where. Space the drills 45cm (18in) apart. Once the seedlings have germinated and they are large enough to handle, thin them to 7.5cm (3in) apart. A few weeks later, thin the remaining seedlings again so there is 30cm (12in) between each one.
Once sorrel plants are established and growing happily, they need very little further attention beyond a bit of weeding, and watering during dry spells, especially if they are growing in a pot. One thing sorrel plants really don’t like is to be hot and dry.
If your plants start to form flowering shoots the leaves will become tougher and have less flavour, so cut off flowering stems as they appear. On the other hand, if you decide that sorrel is a plant you would like more of, simply allow it to flower and set seed.
Sorrel plants should be divided every three years or so to keep them growing vigorously. Dig the plant up in spring or autumn, gently pull it into smaller pieces, each with roots attached and replant in fresh soil. Water the new plants well, and keep the soil around them damp in the following weeks.
Leaves can be harvested any time after the first couple of months of spring growth, but they tend to be almost tasteless early on, gradually gaining their characteristic and desired acidity and flavour as the season wears on.
The tender, young basal leaves are the best ones to pick for culinary purposes as they are less bitter than the course, older foliage. To guarantee a constant supply of young leaves, lightly harvest the plants on a regular basis throughout the main growing season. For the best flavour, use them on the same day, although they can be frozen.
The young leaves are suitable for picking on a regular basis from March until November. They can also be gathered through the winter if the plants are covered with protective cloches from late-autumn to the early spring. In the kitchen, break the stems off backwards before using. This will draw out any tough string that continues up the middle of the leaf.
The lemony tang of sorrel makes a great addition to salads. As the leaves get bigger they can be cooked like spinach and used in soups, sauces and risottos. Heating sorrel dulls the taste a little, so you can afford to be more generous with the leaves if you are going to cook them.
If you’ve never used sorrel, begin by adding it to your potato soup or gratin. Just sauté three or four large handfuls of chopped leaves in a bit of butter until they ‘melt.’ The melting quality makes sorrel a fantastic central ingredient for sauces for fish and veal. Your guests will wonder what the mystery ingredient is that gives that sauce such an intriguing tang.
Sorrel is one of those leafy greens (like spinach) whose culinary values depend in good part on their oxalic-acid content which is what gives them their distinctive tart flavour. Most people need not be concerned about oxalic-acid but those with certain conditions such as kidney disease, kidney stones, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, do need to be careful.
The high acid content of the leaves also means that the flavour can be impaired if they are cooked in aluminium or cast iron pans. Use stainless steel utensils as well as cookware while cooking sorrel.
Types of Sorrel:
There are many different types of sorrel, of which four are particularly suitable for the kitchen garden. All are perennial, and will start producing leaves in early spring each year.
- Broad-Leaf sorrel (Rumex acetosa) has lots of large arrow-shaped leaves. Also known as Common Sorrel or Garden Sorrel, the leaves emerge from a dense basal clump and have a reddish tinge when they are young. The young leaves are tender and full of flavour, larger leaves are best cooked. It is the most strongly flavored variety with a sharp, lemony taste.
- Buckler-leaf or True French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) has much smaller leaves which are green and appear like a shield. The leaves don’t grow large enough to become tough, they have a milder flavour – less sour than the broad leaf form and possess a distinct lemon flavour. The flowers are small and have a green colour, which changes to reddish-brown later.
- Patience sorrel also known as Herb Patience (Rumex patientia) is the mildest variety and tastes a little like spinach. It is often consumed as a leaf vegetable in Southern Europe.
- Red Veined sorrel, often called Bloody sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) is the most ornamental. It has deep red veins and mid-ribs and looks right at home in a flower border if you don’t have space for a vegetable patch.
Garden sorrel is indigenous to Europe as well as Asia; while French sorrel has its origin in the mountains of Southern France and the southern and central regions of Europe and southwest Asia.
Sorrel is a genus containing many rather close cousins, also called ‘sorrel’ of one kind or another–wild sorrel, sheep sorrel, grassleaf sorrel, indian sorrel, maiden sorrel, green sorrel, red sorrel, and many more.
The sorrels are all members of the Polygonaceae (from the Greek for ‘many-kneed’, referring to the characteristic stem joints) family, which does not include any large number of common edibles, though rhubarb belongs, as do dock and buckwheat.
In the ancient world, sorrel was an extremely well-liked culinary herb and was used in the form of an antiseptic in conventional folk medicine. Owing to the elevated vitamin C content it was rightly believed to ward off scurvy. The roots and seeds were recommended in the form of a common tonic
Since the 14th century, it has been extensively used in the form of a vegetable and salad plant in the West.
The Latin name for the sorrel family is Rumex meaning ‘I suck’, as Roman soldiers apparently used to suck the leaves to relieve thirst, as did, at least in some works of literature, field workers.
Our modern word Sorrel comes from the old French surele, which derived from sur, meaning ‘sour’.
In Italy, the Latin acetosa is also the Italian word for the plant. In ancient Rome, both Rumex and acetosa were words meaning sorrel, but acetosa also means vinegary, sour, or pungent.
In France the word Oseille pronounced ‘Oh-zehy,’ means ‘Sorrel’.
Confusingly, the species R. acetosa is also sometimes called ‘French sorrel’, and R. scutatus is sometimes called ‘True French sorrel’ to distinguish it.
There are also many common English names for the various sorrels: little vinegar plant, sour grabs, sour suds, sourgrass, green-sauce (a popular dish made with sorrel, vinegar, and sugar),
Sorrel is one of the first plants that I remember being able to identify as a child. My mother’s plant grew just below one of the ancient espalier apples among granny’s bonnets, day lilies and wayward campanulas. Nostalgia has bathed my memories of this plant in dappled sunlight, cool damp grass underfoot and a puckered tongue after a mouthful of green apples and lemon juice. I’d eat until my teeth squeaked with all the acid.
I still like sorrel. I eat it in soups or with oily fish. I have a spring ritual of Cornish pilchards on a bed of sorrel leaves and brown toast for lunch, on as many days as I can. I like to find the odd leaf in a salad and I very much like a yoghurt dressing with plenty of chopped sorrel, a little raw garlic and salt. Sometimes, if I’m channelling my inner Yotam, I’ll add some tahini, too. It’s good on roasted vegetables or as a dip.
Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa subsp acetosa) grows wild in damp pastures and fertile places. But wild sorrel loves to flower, so you can forage for only a short spring period before the leaves become tough and small. You can also find sheep sorrel (R. acetosella) in abundance in grassy places; its leaves are always tiny, but fun to nibble while you’re loafing about on the grass.
In the garden, however, you want a cultivated sorrel, such as R. acetosa ‘Broad Leaves’, as the leaves are larger and more prolific. It will still flower in summer, but if you cut off flower spikes before they open, you can keep it productive. After several years, it will start to flower earlier and earlier, and the leaves will toughen whatever you do. It self-seeds, so one trick is to let it naturally renew itself and ditch older, tougher plants.
Recently I’ve treated it like an annual, sowing cut-and-come-again patches in containers from now till midsummer and picking as baby leaves. Most companies are generous with their seed, and one packet, stored well, can last several years for such methods.
The holy grail, though, is to find true French sorrel (R. acetosa subsp ambiguus ‘Abundance’ or ‘Profusion’). These varieties are non-flowering selections and remain productive for years. As they don’t flower, you can harvest them all summer long, making it an incredibly useful plant for sun or dappled shade.
However, if you find these leaves a little too sour, try buckler leaf sorrel (R. scutatus). I’ve found this a bit less tart than ordinary sorrel, and the leaves are a pretty shield shape. They’re smaller, too, and it is a more compact plant, making it ideal for a pot in semi-shade. Although it can tolerate drought, a dry plant will become very tough, so make sure that the pot has a deep enough root run: five litres should suffice.
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Bloody Dock Care: How To Grow Red Veined Sorrel Plants
Have you ever heard of the plant with the name of bloody dock (also known as red veined sorrel)? What is red veined sorrel? Red veined sorrel is a decorative edible that is related to French sorrel, the type that is more commonly grown for use in cooking. Interested in growing red veined sorrel? Read on to learn how to grow red veined sorrel and tips for bloody dock care.
What is Red Veined Sorrel?
Bloody dock plant, aka red veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus), is a rosette forming perennial from the buckwheat family. It generally grows in a clumping mound that reaches around 18 inches (46 cm.) in height and is just as wide.
Bloody dock plant is native to Europe and Asia but has naturalized in some areas of the United States and Canada. Wild growing red veined sorrel can be found in ditches, clearings, and forests.
It is cultivated for its lovely green, lance-shaped
leaves that are marked by red to purple veining, of which the plant gets its common name. In the spring, the reddish stems bloom with tiny star-shaped flowers in clusters growing up to 30 inches (76 cm.) in height. Flowers are green at first emergence then darken to a reddish brown, followed by a similarly colored fruit.
Is Bloody Dock Edible?
Bloody dock plants are edible; however, some caution is advised. The plant contains oxalic acid (so does spinach) which may cause stomach discomfort when ingested or skin irritation on sensitive people.
Oxalic acid is responsible for giving red veined sorrel a bitter lemon flavor and in large quantities can cause mineral deficiencies, specifically calcium. Oxalic acid is minimized when cooked. It is suggested that people with pre-existing conditions avoid ingesting.
If you are going to harvest red veined sorrel as a vegetable, harvest the tender young leaves that can be eaten raw or cooked as you would spinach. Older leaves become tough and bitter.
How to Grow Red Veined Sorrel
Bloody dock plants are hardy to USDA zones 4-8 but can be grown as annuals in other areas. Sow the seeds directly into the garden in the spring or divide existing plants. Situate the planting in full sun to partial shade in average to moist soil.
Bloody dock care is minimal, as this is a low maintenance plant. It can be grown around ponds, in a bog, or in a water garden. Keep the plants moist at all times.
The plant can be invasive in the garden if allowed to self-sow. Remove the flower stalks to prevent self-seeding and promote bushy leaf growth. Fertilize once a year in the spring.
Common issues include slugs, rust, and powdery mildew.
Species Name: Rumex sanguineus
Common Names: Sorrel ‘Red Veined’, Sorrel ‘Red Vein’, Redvein Dock, Bloody Dock, Blood Dock, Wood Dock, Bloodwort
Red Veined Sorrel has been cultivated for many years its origin is uncertain. Wild forms of the plant are native to parts of Europe and Asia.
Red Veined Sorrel leaves can be used in moderation as a salad green to add colour and a delicious lemony tang. The youngest leaves are best for this purpose as this is when they’re at their most tender and least bitter. Red Veined Sorrel can be eaten cooked, discarding the cooking water will reduce the sourness of the leaves as the oxalic acid will leech out into the water during cooking. Cooking will also reduce the bitterness of older leaves. Plants with a high oxalic acid content can be problematic for people who suffer from kidney stones, avoid eating the raw leaves if this applies to you.
Red Veined Sorrel grows best in a sheltered location that receives partial shade throughout the day. Sorrel grows best on a sandy loam soil, rich in organic matter. Dig through lots of well-rotted animal manures, compost and worm castings through your soil prior to planting Red Veined Sorrel. Adding extra organic matter will help to improve your soil structure, retain moisture, encourage worms and beneficial soil micro-organisms as well as provide nutrients to your growing plants. Grow Sorrel in raised beds if your soil is too compacted or heavy with clay. Apply a complete organic liquid fertiliser, worm juice or compost tea every few weeks for rapid growth. Apply rock dust or trace elements if your soil is lacking in mineral content, this will help to promote strong, healthy growth. Apply a mulch such as sugar cane mulch around your Red Veined Sorrel plants to retain moisture, keep their root systems cool and retain moisture in the soil. Water regularly, at least every second day. Red Veined Sorrel grows best in a slightly acidic soil with a pH range between 5.7 and 6.8. Red Veined Sorrel is frost hardy.
When To Sow
Sow Red Veined Sorrel from October to December in cooler areas of Australia. In temperate areas of Australia sow from September to November, or during March. In subtropical regions of Australia sow Red Veined Sorrel from March to September. In tropical regions of Australia try growing Red Veined Sorrel during the dry season from April to July.
How To Sow
Sow Red Veined Sorrel seeds 6mm deep, space plantings about 20cm apart.
Time To Germination
Most Red Veined Sorrel seedlings will germinate 7 to 14 days after sowing the seeds.
Time To Harvest
Red Veined Sorrel takes between 8 and 9 weeks to start producing good quantities of leaves. Pick Red Veined Sorrel leaves when young, taking care not to damage the central growing point. The leaves become bitter and more fibrous as they age, but the older leaves can still be left on the plant to provide energy for new leaves to form.
Sorrel Plant: How To Grow Sorrel
The sorrel herb is a tangy, lemony flavored plant. The youngest leaves have a slightly more acidic taste, but you can use mature leaves steamed or sautéed like spinach. Sorrel is also called sour dock and is a perennial herb that grows wild in many parts of the world. The herb is widely used in French cuisine but not as well known in the United States.
Learn how to grow sorrel and add a citrus touch to your culinary herb garden.
There are many varieties of sorrel plant but the most commonly used in cooking is French sorrel (Rumex scutatus). Sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is native to North America and is not palatable to humans but produces nutritious fodder for animals.
Leaf sorrel is cultivated as a garden herb and grows 2 feet high with upright stems. The leaves are smooth to crinkled and are from 3 to 6 inches long. When sorrel herb bolts, it produces an attractive whorled purple flower.
Sow seeds for sorrel
plant in spring when the soil has warmed up. Prepare a well drained bed with well tilled soil. Seeds should be 6 inches apart and just under the surface of the soil. Keep the bed moderately moist until germination and then thin the plants when they reach 2 inches high.
Sorrel will not need a lot of supplemental care, but the bed does need to be kept weeded and the plants should receive at least 1 inch of water per week.
How to Grow Sorrel
Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and French sorrel are the two cultivated varieties of the herb. Garden sorrel needs damp soils and temperate conditions. French sorrel performs best when it is grown in dry, open areas with inhospitable soils. The plants have very deep and persistent tap roots and grow well with little attention. Planting sorrel from seed or dividing the roots are the two most common ways to propagate the herb.
Sorrel will usually bolt when temperatures begin to soar, usually in June or July. When this happens, you can allow the flower to bloom and enjoy it, but this slows the production of leaves. If you want to encourage larger and more leaf production, cut the flower stalk off and the plant will give you a few more harvests. You can even cut the plant to the ground and it will produce a full new crop of foliage
Harvesting Sorrel Herb
Sorrel can be used from late spring until fall, with management. Harvest only what you need from the plant. It is much like lettuce and greens, where you can cut the outer leaves and the plant will continue to produce foliage. You can begin to harvest when the plants are 4 to 6 inches tall.
The smallest leaves are best in salads and add an acidic tang. The larger leaves are more mellow. The herb is a traditional accompaniment to eggs and melts into creamy soups and sauces.
Growing sorrel in home gardens
Sorrel is an early spring perennial vegetable, hardy into USDA Zone 3. Its bright lemony flavored leaves are good in mixed salads, on sandwiches and in soups. Cooking greatly reduces the tartness, so you can put large amounts of sorrel in soups.
Start sorrel seed indoors three weeks before last frost, or direct seed in early spring. Choose a spot in full sun with good drainage. Space mature plants at least a foot apart. If the plant thrives and spreads outside its space, divide it in spring.
Proper watering will enhance good production. Soak the soil thoroughly when watering, to a depth of at least one inch each week during the growing season.
Frequent, shallow cultivation will kill weeds before they become a problem. Be careful not to damage the plants when cultivating. Keep your tool away from the plant itself.
Once the plants establish, harvest sorrel at any time from early spring until frost kills the growth. Pluck individual leaves. You can use the leaves whole or chopped. Young leaves are much tenderer than older leaves.
Remove seed stalks that emerge, just as you would rhubarb. Sorrel plants are not as long-lived as rhubarb. You can start new plants easily from seed and many gardeners treat sorrel as an annual.
Tips and Tricks for Growing Sorrel
In the above video, Claire from Claire’s Allotment shows you how simple it is to plant sorrel from seeds. She starts the seeds in her greenhouse, but you can easily start yours directly in the garden.
To plant the seeds, scatter a handful over the planting area or dig a 1/2 inch deep trench and bury the seeds in it. If you are scattering the seeds, cover them with about a 1/2 inch of soil.
You can water the soil before planting and after, so that the seeds get a sufficient amount of moisture and are able to germinate.
Once the seedlings start to come up, you can thin them out when the plants are about three inches tall. Since sorrel grows in a clump and produces a long taproot, you’ll want to give each plant plenty of space in your garden. Thin plants so that they are at least 12 inches apart.
You can also grow sorrel by planting a transplant or root division directly in your garden. To do that, wait until after the last frost in your area. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the plant’s roots, and then place the roots into the hole. Fill in the hole with soil and water well.
Care for Sorrel
Thanks to its deep taproot, sorrel can be relatively easy to care for in the garden. As long as you plant it in a spot that gets full sun each day and that has well drained soil, it will need little attention from you.
To give your sorrel a boost, it can be helpful to add a handful or two of compost to the soil before you plant. You can add a bit more compost about halfway through its growing season, too.
Use a light hand when watering sorrel. As a plant from the Mediterranean area, it prefers somewhat drier conditions.
Since sorrel is an perennial in many areas, there might come a point when it becomes too big for your garden. If that is the case, you can divide the plant to make more room. Some people choose to grow the plant as an annual, pulling it up at the end of each season, so that they don’t have to deal with dividing sorrel.
Usually, gardeners who grow sorrel as a perennial divide the plant every three years or so. To do that, dig up your plants when they aren’t in bloom. Fine Gardening recommends dividing plants when the weather is cool, but the soil is somewhat warm.
Once you’ve dug up the plant, gently break apart its roots, separating it into clumps. Replant the healthiest looking parts of the plant, and either compost or consume the rest.