French Sorrel (Rumex scutatus)
English Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

Sorrel is an herb that can be found both cultivated and in the wild. I am noding primarily about cultivated sorrel.

Because of the oxalic acid found in the plant the leaves have a lemony, sour taste.

The leaves form a cluster and grow about 12 - 24 inches tall, beginning in very early spring. Leaves are jade green and arrow shaped with the "point" at the top. Stems tend toward red. Flower stalks form as the weather gets warm and eventually grows to 4 or 5 feet. Little red/brown flowers form in a cluster which later form flat, brown seeds. In my yard Goldfinches love to light on the flower heads and frequently break them with their tiny weight. I don't know if they eat the sorrel seeds or just use them a perch.

Sorrel is perennial. Cultivated plants should be lifted and divided to propagate every 3 - 4 years.

Garden (cultivated) sorrel is native to Europe and Asia. It has become naturalized and grows throughout the United Sates. It is a member of the Buckwheat family (Polygonaceae) and is related to rhubarb.

The red sorrel (Rumex acetosella) also called common sorrel and sheep sorrel, is native to North America, Europe, and Asia and is considered to be a weed.

Cultivated sorrel can be added to salads, eaten cooked - in soups or sauces. Historically, sorrel was a "pot herb" valued especially in early spring when winter stores of preserved foods were getting to be mighty boring and scurvy was a real danger. Sorrel is high in potassium, and vitamins A and C. It is well known as an ingredient in French Sorrel soup.

My kids have always liked to pick and eat the leaves whenever the notion struck them but I taught them to limit it to a few leaves a day. Sorrel should not be consumed in large amounts because the presence of oxalic acid in the leaves can irritate the kidneys. Sorrel is usually more a flavoring devise than a main ingredient. Old leaves have more oxalic acid and are therefore sourer than young leaves. Cooking sorrel in aluminum pots will blacken the pots.

Sorrel leaves can be frozen for later use. If the flower stems are cut back continuously the harvest can be prolonged. Once the plant flowers the leaves toughen.

Sorrel Lore:
The American Rumex root was used by the Navajo to make a rich brown dye.

"The Mohegans of Connecticut called the plant Sourweed. The fresh leaves were chewed and said to be good for the stomach.

The Pennsylvania Dutch called Sorrel Sauerrampel. They made a diuretic tea from the leaves and ate the leaves in salads to prevent scurvy.

In the Ozark Mountains, Sorrel has remained in use as a folk cure and is still used to treat a variety of skin diseases. A poultice of boiled, crushed leaves was freshly applied to the afflicted areas and Vance Randolf says that it did cure many sores, but was very painful. (Sorrel contains significant amounts of oxalic acid, a powerful germicide. It may well have benefited minor skin troubles).

In France, modern homeopathic physicians apply poultices of Sorrel leaves to bring boils to a head and help heal them.

Chinese herb doctors were quite familiar with Sorrel. The prescribed it to be taken internally for reducing fevers, and externally for treating ringworm (actually a fungus and not caused by worms) and other skin conditions."