Welcome to another plant of the week post. This week we are taking a look at the delightful herbaceous perennial, Rumex acetosa (Sorrel). Easily mistaken and mistreated as a weed due to its resemblance to dock plants (which are valuable plants in their own right), sorrel is a plant you definitely want to make the most of in your garden.
Cultivation & Care
Sorrel is a great plant for beginner growers as it is so easy to grow. It isn’t too fussy about it’s growing conditions. It does prefer a moist but well-drained, fairly fertile soil if possible and a sunny position is favoured, although partial shade will be tolerated.
No maintenance is required, but cutting back the flower stalks will encourage new leafy growth from the base. Otherwise, leaf growth will continue once seeds have been set.
It is worth noting that some varieties of sorrel are not perennial, they do produce seed readily and will return in the following growing season either as new plants or from the previous roots.
If you are wanting to collect seed be sure to have several plants growing together. While some species are self-fertile, others can have separate male or female plants so you will need a combination of the two growing in the same area. Pollen is dispersed on the wind so as long as plants are fairly close together, pollination should be successful. If in doubt grow several plants together to ensure that seed will be produced.
Wildlife & Eco Gardens can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally and when in doubt about eating a plant you have not eaten before.
With so many parts of sorrel being edible, I’d definitely encourage people to grow it in their green spaces.
- Leaves ~ Raw or cooked, they offer a delicious lemony, citrus flavour. It can be quite tangy so the leaves are often mixed with other leaves in a salad. I myself love the tangy flavour. When cooking, treat the leaves as you would spinach. Harvest these young when possible as mature leaves can be quite fibrous.
- Flowers ~ Can be cooked or used raw as a salad garnish
- Seeds ~ These can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds can also be ground and used in flours.
- Roots ~ Species which produce large taproots can be dried and used in flours.
While sorrel is great for it’s edible uses, it has so much more value to both humans and nature.
- Drought tolerance ~ With it’s tolerance of dry periods, you won’t need to worry about the plant dying if you live in an area prone to drought. This will also save on excess water irrigation.
- Dye plant ~ Roots – dark green, brown, dark grey. Leaves & stems – Grey-blue
- Stain removal ~ Juice from the leaves can be used to remove stains from linen and white material.
- Dynamic accumulator ~ Sorrel is especially good at accumulating potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium and iron.
- Polish ~ An infusion of the stems can be used to polish wicker, bamboo and silver.
- Pioneer species ~ The deep roots of this species is great at breaking up soils
- Insect nectar ~ The tiny flowers of sorrel offer nectar for beneficial insects