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Sorrel (aveluk in Armenian) picked fresh from Mount Ara and braided before sale, for ease of drying and extended use

Sorrel (aveluk in Armenian) picked fresh from Mount Ara and braided before sale, for ease of drying and extended use

Common sorrel or garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), often simply called sorrel, is a perennial herb in the family Polygonaceae. Other names for sorrel include spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock. It is a common plant in grassland habitats and is cultivated as a garden herb or leaf vegetable (pot herb). Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) occurs in grassland habitats throughout Europe from the northern Mediterranean coast to the north of Scandinavia and in parts of Central Asia. It occurs as an introduced species in parts of North America.

Using Sorrel

  • The tart, lemony leaves can be pulled from the base of the plant by hand, discard the stem and use the leaves to flavour soups, sauces and salads.
  • Sorrel leaves partner well with avocado in a salad or on a sandwich.
  • Add some shredded leaves to scrambled eggs, omelettes and frittata.
  • Quinoa salad loves the tangy addition of sorrel as do seafood and tomato dishes. Stir finely shredded sorrel through a basic white sauce to give a real zing to vegetables. Don’t cook sorrel in aluminium pans (the oxalic acid reacts and gives it a metallic taste).

Uses of Sorrel in International Cuisines

Common sorrel has been cultivated for centuries. The leaves may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salads; they have a flavour that is similar to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries. The plant’s sharp taste is due to oxalic acid.

  • In northern Nigeria, sorrel is known as yakuwa or sure (pronounced suuray) in Hausa or karassu in Kanuri. It is also used in stews usually in addition to spinach. In some Hausa communities, it is steamed and made into salad using kuli-kuli (traditional roasted peanut cakes with oil extracted), salt, pepper, onion and tomatoes. The recipe varies according to different levels of household income. A drink called zobo (sorrel squash) is made from a decoction of the plant calyx.
  • In Romania, wild or garden sorrel, known as măcriş or ştevie, is used to make sour soups, stewed with spinach, added fresh to lettuce and spinach in salads or over open sandwiches.
  • In Russia and Ukraine it is called shchavel (щавель) and is used to make soup called green borscht. It is used as a soup ingredient in other countries, too (e.g. Lithuania, where it is known as rūgštynė).
  • In Hungary the plant and its leaves are known as sóska. It is called kuzukulağı (‘lamb’s ear’) in Turkish.
  • In Polish it is called szczaw
  • In Croatia and Bulgaria is used for soups or with mashed potatoes, or as part of a traditional dish containing eel and other green herbs.
  • In rural Greece it is used with spinach, leeks, and chard in spanakopita.
  • In the Flemish part of Belgium it is called zurkel and preserved pureed sorrel is mixed with mashed potatoes and eaten with sausages, meatballs or fried bacon, as a traditional winter dish.
  • In Vietnam it is called Rau Chua and is used to added fresh to lettuce and in salads for Bánh Xēo.
  • In Portugal, it is called azeda or azeda-brava, and is usually eaten raw in salads or used to make soups. This is identical to its use in Brazil, under the name of azedinha.
  • In India, the leaves are called chukkakura in Telugu, and are used in making delicious recipes. Chukkakura pappu soup made with yellow lentils is also called toor dal in India.
  • In Albania it is called lëpjeta, the leaves are simmered and served cold marinated in olive oil, it is used in soups, and even as an ingredient for filling byrek pies (byrek me lakra).
  • Be careful not to confuse sorrel (Rumex acetosa) with roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), which is known as Jamaican sorrel or Guinea sorrel. See Hibiscus Tea.

Where To Buy Sorrel

Sorrel is not typically found in grocery stores. Look for sorrel in your local farmer’s market. It is quite easy to grow so if this green is a family favourite you may just want to grow your own.

Choose sorrel with bright green, crisp leaves. Avoid those leaves that are wilted, have yellow blemishes, or dry brown areas. Store fresh sorrel in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Substitute for Sorrel

  • Spinach with some lemon juice or zest for tartness
  • Arugula (this lacks the sour flavour)

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