"Learn About..." is a recurring post where we'll look at lesser known herbs, greens, etc., and discuss their origin, health benefits, and everything in between!
Never heard of sorrel? Don't worry—you aren't the only one.
It's not one of the most popular herbs in North America, but as to why that is, it's a mystery; sorrel is a wonderfully tart and succulent treat!
Rumex acetosa, or "sorrel" if Latin isn't your thing, is a perennial herb that belongs in the knotweed family along with rhubarb and buckwheat. The term "knotweed" stems from the little nodes the stems of some of the family's species have.
Sorrel grows in grassland habitats all over Europe and in parts of Central Asia, though its history goes back as far as 1700 with mentions of the sour herb in Jamaican literature.
The plant grows in three varieties: French, red-veined, and broad leaf, all of which have relatively different appearances.
Red-veined sorrel is often used for decorative purposes due to the contrast between the lime green leaves and crimson veins that run along them. While more attractive than the French and broad leaf varieties, red-veined sorrel's flavor is the same.
Rumex acetosa shouldn't be confused with Hibiscus sabdariffa, however, which is also commonly known as roselle, or "Jamaican sorrel." Roselle actually bears fruit, unlike rumen acetosa.
Sorrel is packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, and oxalic acid (which can be harmful in high dosages, but it would require an enormous amount of sorrel to be consumed on a daily basis before it becomes threatening).
Vitamins A and C contribute to eye health and a healthier and stronger immune system, respectively, and potassium helps to lower one's blood pressure and increase blood circulation.
The tender green is also very low in calories, with 2.3 grams of protein in every 3.5 oz portion.
Sorrel is a lovely accompaniment to seafood and mild-flavored meats like poultry, and can add a nice zing to any smoothie or salad.
Here's a tip for when you prepare sorrel (courtesy of The Kitchn): because of its oxalic acid content, you should cook it in unlined aluminium or cast iron, or it may change into a less-than-appealing color and flavor.
Try these sorrel recipes below!
Potato, Leek, and Sorrel Pesto Pizza
Recipe via Salt & Wind
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup raw sliced almonds
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil divided plus more for drizzling
kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (2 ounces) packed sorrel leaves
grated lemon zest
1 medium leeks ends trimmed
8 ounces baby potatoes sliced paper thin
1 pound fresh whole wheat pizza dough
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
For the sorrel pesto: Combine garlic, nuts, 1/3 cup of the olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper in a mini food processor. Process until mixture is smooth and emulsified. Add sorrel leaves and lemon juice puree until smooth. If the mixture is thick, add a few tablespoons of water, and pulse until lighter in color and well mixed. Stir in lemon zest, taste and add more salt or pepper, as desired.
For the pizza: Heat oven to 425°F and arrange and a rack in the middle. Drizzle the baking sheet with some olive oil and place it on the rack while oven heats up. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and then slice them into 1/4-inch thick half moon shapes. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add leeks and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir to coat in oil then add potato slices. Cook, stirring rarely, until potatoes are slightly softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.
Meanwhile, place dough on lightly floured parchment paper, and, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll to an 12-by-10-inch rectangle. Pierce the dough in several places to prevent it from bubbling up unevenly.
Scatter Pecorino evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Evenly distribute leek mixture then top with dollops of ricotta every few inches. Brush the border of the pizza crust with oil and drizzle the top with a few spoonfuls of olive oil. Using the parchment paper to help, carefully place the pizza (with the parchment paper) on the hot baking sheet in the oven.
Bake until crust is crispy, cheese is melted and starting to brown, and underside of dough is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, slice into pieces, top each piece with a spoonful of the sorrel puree, drizzle with additional olive oil, top with a sprinkling of salt, and serve immediately.
Salmon in sorrel sauce
Recipe via Food52
3 tablespoons butter
Prepared Salmon (see below)
2 cups fresh sorrel leaves, chopped rough
1/4 cup chervil
1/2 cup chives, with flowers if possible
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Adjust an oven rack to be at the very top of the oven. Preheat the broiler. Warm the plates (very important) in a sink of warm water, your extra oven (ha), or remove them from the just run dishwasher. Prepare all ingredients and stage. This dish comes together quickly and you don't want to be scrambling. Hold back the chive flowers, if you have them.
When the oven is ready, start the sauce. In a large, wide skillet, melt the butter until it starts to toast. It should be golden brown. At this point, put the salmon under the broiler. Add the sorrel, chervil and chives to the butter and coat quickly. Allow them to wilt a little, and then pour in the cream.
Bring to a boil and reduce just until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, remembering you have seasoned the fish. The salmon should now be ready. (2-3 minutes) Watch it carefully the entire time it's in the oven -- it could take you as little as 30 seconds, depending on your oven. Dry the warm plates.
Place four medallions per person on each plate and decorate with the sauce, being very generous. Sprinkle chive flower petals and serve with crusty bread.
FOR THE SALMON:
1 pound beautiful, wild, center cut salmon (Alaskan King is my preference here, but any wild caught salmon will do)
Slice the salmon into thin medallions. A flexible salmon slicing knife is my choice, but any long thin knife will work well. It must be very sharp. Slice on a slight angle cutting away the skin as you go. Aim for 16 pieces. Place the salmon on a sheet pan lined with parchment and very lightly oiled. Brush the tops very lightly with oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fish.
While sorrel may be a bit hard to source in North America, it only takes one week to grow it in an Urban Cultivator! Each grow yields around 200 grams of the tangy greens.
At our head office, we often throw it into our smoothies for a zip that wakes us up.
Do you have a sorrel recipe that you love? Share it with us via the comment section!