Common Sorrel, Rumex acetosa
Common Sorrel, also called spinach dock or narrow-leaved dock, is a very common perennial herb found mostly in grassland habitats, but is also cultivated as a garden herb or salad vegetable. The shiny, green-to-reddish leaves of this plant tend to be short and rounded when young, but develop to be longer and more arrow-shaped as they age. They all, however, have two pointed tips at the base, which is a key identifying feature. In the summer months, Sorrel sends out tall spikes topped with greenish-red flowers. The leaves may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salads and pastries such as tarts. They have a flavour that is similar to sharp, sour apple skin, due to the prescence of oxalic acid. Common Sorrel is very hardy and can be found all year-round.
This plant does have some mildly toxic lookalikes (see below), so care must be taken in it's correct identification.
Common Sorrel Checklist
🐑 Grassland, including paddocks, fields and meadows.
🏡 Urban Green Spaces, including scrubland, parks and gardens.
🚜 Hedgerows, including field edges.
🌸🌞🍂❄️ Jan - Dec
☘️ Shiny, green-to-reddish leaves that grow in a rosette pattern. They are short and rounded when young, but long and arrow-shaped when mature. The sharp, two pointed tips at the base of all leaves are a key identifier.
🌷 Short, stubby greenish-red flowers sprout from a tall flower stalk during the summer months.
🌱 Thin, smooth and greenish-red.
Aroma / Taste
👃 Indistinct Aroma.
👅 The leaves taste sharp - a little like apple skin. The leaves from the flower stem can also be a little bitter.
🟨 ID Difficulty - Novice
👀 The two sharp tails at the base of each leaf and the stubby red-green flowers are the key identifiers of this plant.
⛔️ Sorrel contains Oxalic Acid, which is safe to eat, but can make you feel unwell if consumed in very large amounts. It's what gives sorrel is sharp tangy flavour.
✅ Limit your intake of sorrel leaves. Harvest enough for a soup, salad, or tart, and enjoy these no more than once per week to be safe.
⛔️ This plant can be confused with young Lords and Ladies and Meadow Bindweed.
☠️ Lords and Ladies is a mildly toxic plant that has similar leaves to Sorrel when young, but has rounded lobes rather than sharp tails at the base of each leaf. The toxin consists of tiny sharp crystals that develop on the plant which can be very painful and unpleasant if touched or eaten. The distinctive cobra-hood flower and red berry filled stalk of Lords and Ladies is also a key indicator that's it not Sorrel.
☠️ Meadow Bindweed is a mildly toxic sprawling plant with long stems and white or pink trumpet-shaped flowers, in contrast to Common Sorrel which forms a tight rosette and has green-red flowers.
✅ The easiest way to avoid confusion is to gain familiarity by harvesting during the summer months, where the green-red stubby flowers of Sorrel will ensure correct identification.
🥗 Salad - this plant is usually eaten raw and added to salads.
🥬 Green - Sorrel is used quite a lot in French cooking, most comonly used to make soups and stews and as a main ingredient in quiches and pastries.
🧉 Condiment - Can beused to make pickles, preserves and sauces.
🍨 Sweet - Can be used to make sweet pastries and tarts.
🍓 Yummy - Arthur thinks these are a sharp and tangy mid-forage snack!