Sorrel, a Lucky Find in My CSA

This week’s CSA proved a bonanza of greens.  One find I unearthed I have not used in a while mainly because its not a common herb in my local markets.  So there was an excited “woohoo” elicited from me upon its discovery.  The plant in question is sorrel, and if you are not familiar with it, you’re missing out.

garden bounty

Common sorrel or garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), is a member of the knotweed family, and native to Europe.  Other names for sorrel include spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock.  Some confusion surrounds its name with claims that sorrel comes from the French word “surele” meaning sour, and other sources counter claiming its from a Germanic word with the same meaning.  Visually, sorrel resembles spinach and its taste has been described as kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries in its young leaves, developing into a more acidic tasting older leaves.  Given that it is a relative of rhubarb and buckwheat, you get a sense of its potential tartness.  Sorrel gets more acidic as it ages due to the presence of oxalic acid, which actually gets stronger and tastes more prominent.

Cooks treat it as either a vegetable or herb.  We had it last night as a salad, perfect with just a touch of olive oil to offset the sour taste of the larger leaves, with many recipes calling for the addition of just a few leaves, much like you would use basil or other leafy herbs.

leafy magic

Internationally Recognized

In northern Nigeria, sorrel is known as yakuwa or sure (pronounced suuray) in Hausa or karassu in Kanuri. It is added to stews along with spinach. In some Hausa communities, it is made into salad using kuli-kuli (roasted peanut cakes), salt, pepper, onion and tomatoes.

In Romania, sorrel, known as măcriş or ştevie, is used in sour soups, stewed with spinach, added fresh to salads or sandwiches.

Hungry for sorrel in Russia and Ukraine?  Call it shchavel’ where it is made into soup (shav).

In Hungary this is known as sóska (pronounced Shoshka), or kuzu kulağı (“lamb’s ear”) in Turky, or szczaw in Poland.

Among Northern Sami it is known as juopmu and is traditionally added to reindeer milk as a flavoring and preservative.

In Belgium it is served mixed with mashed potatoes, or incorporated in a traditional dish containing eel and other green herbs.

In Greece it is mixed with spinach, leeks, and chard in spanakopita – that phyllo dough pocket of love!

another potential source, a favorite market in Baltimore

Young sorrel may be harvested to use in salads, soups or stews. If you are planning on using sorrel in salads, it’s a good idea to stick with small tender leaves that have the fruitier and less acidic taste. Young sorrel leaves are also excellent when lightly cooked, similar in taste to cooked chard or spinach. For soups and stews, older sorrel can be used because it adds zippy tang and flavor to the dish.

Jerry Traunfeld, in the inspiring The Herbfarm Cookbook, offers some great pairings for sorrel:  fish, shellfish, salads, eggs, spinach and other greens (hense its popularity in salads)

He also suggests some herb combinations that work well:  chives, dill, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, lovage, mint, parsley and tarragon.

Sorrel Onion Tart

Adapted from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison

Ingredients
One batch of your favorite pie crust
4 T butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 small clove garlic, mashed
½ tsp salt
8 oz sorrel leaves
2 large eggs
1 c heavy cream
2 oz., Gruyère cheese, grated
pepper

Directions

Partially prebake the crust and set aside.

Melt 3 T of the butter in a frying pan, add onion and salt.  Cover the pan, and slowly stew the until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, trim the stems off the sorrel leaves and roughly slice the leaves.  Like spinach and other greens, the leaves are full of water, and the leaves will cook down to almost nothing.  Add the last of the butter to a pan and add the sorrel in large handfuls.  Cook over low heat until they have wilted, they will also turn an unfortunate grayish-green color, in about 3-4 minutes.

Wish the eggs with the cream, stir in the onion, garlic, sorrel, and half the cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the crust and then pour the filling over the top.  Bake in the center of the oven until the custard is set and has a nice color about 35 to 40 minutes.  Serve while warm.

Nutritional Sound Advice

From a nutritional standpoint, sorrel can be an excellent addition to the plate with its relatively high levels of vitamins A and C.  It also includes decent doses of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. But it may not be for everyone because it also has of the oxalic acid.  Oxalic acid can aggravate rheumatism, kidney or bladder stones, in some people so if you or your fellow eaters have these ailments, you may want to proceed cautiously with sorrel.  Also, like all things it is bets in moderation, and if you forget it wil remind you as it has some laxative properties, that given Murphy’s law will kick in at inopportune times.

more likely to find sorrel in a European farmers market

Consider the Possibilities

Recipes and more here from Mariquita Farm – my source

Spicy Sorrel Pesto from Luna Cafe

Sorrel can be challenging to find in your local grocer. It keeps for about three days in the refrigerator. The best place to look for sorrel is in specialty food stores where it may be available fresh, or in pureed or canned options.  Fresh is best, but the pureed version adds a nice flavor to creamy soups and pastas.  As noted, it does turn a less than attractive color when cooked, so Harold McGee suggests adding some freshly minced sorrel to the cooked dish just prior to serving to improve the color.

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You may have heard of sorrel in conjunction with the bright fruity drinks found in the Caribbean.  That sorrel is not the same as the sorrel described here.  That sorrel is made from the red sepals of the Roselle plant (Hibiscus sabdiariffa), and is not related to the European sorrel.

Update me when site is updated

17 comments for “Sorrel, a Lucky Find in My CSA

  1. July 3, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    That is something I have never cooked with… It is time for me to try that “herb”. Your tart sounds marvelous!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. July 4, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    I have never used sorrel. Thanks for all the info! And I love it when I get introduced to new (to me) veggies via my CSA box!!!

    Happy 4th of July!

  3. July 4, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    We’ve a friend who makes a wonderful dish with sorrel, black olives, onions and fish. The tartness of the sorrel and the earthiness of the olives really makes the fish exciting. I’m going to get the recipe sometime and prepare it at home myself. I’ve seen it at farmers markets but you’re right, I cannot recall much sorrel at regular supermarkets.

    Love you’re blog, by the way. I’ve added a link to our list of other cool blogs. Happy July 4th!

  4. July 4, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m growing a tiny container of sorrel for the first time. I’ve much enjoyed it in salads and stir-fries, but have been looking for other things to do with it. Now, I know! ;)

  5. Laz
    July 4, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Sadly, I do not get to work with sorrel as much as I would like. A very undervalued green. The sorrel onion tart sounds like a real treat. Sorrel and Salmon is also a classic match.

  6. July 4, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    I don’t think I had sorrel before….sorrel onion tart sounds really interesting.

  7. July 6, 2011 at 3:51 AM

    Sorrel is really hard to find here, but my grandmother used to grew sorrel with her herbs, so I have had the chance to enjoy this green wonder. Thank you for sharing

  8. July 6, 2011 at 5:35 AM

    nice ….looks great! nothing like freshly grown produce

  9. July 6, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    I had to pipe in here because I love sorrel. I like to flavor a cream sauce with it then serve it simple, with pan fried fish. GREG

  10. July 7, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    I use it as an herb and grow it every year. Never thought about using it as a vegetable – aside from the occasional salad leaves. The recipe sounds grand and I am thinking I need to get my hands on Deborah Madison’s cookbook.

  11. July 8, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    Count me in with those who have grown sorrel as an herb and never considered using it as an enrichment in a dish. GREAT idea. Now if I can find some locally. Wouldn’t you know it, this year I didn’t grow any.

    Thanks for sharing…I’m off to Luna Cafe I haven’t been there in ages!!!

  12. July 8, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    Love sorrel and it is hard to find…but what a lucky find in your CSA shipment :) I did a lemon balm pest once and loved it, I am sure sorrel would be equally lovely. And what a unique surprise for an ingredient in a tart, very nice indeed!

  13. July 9, 2011 at 3:59 AM

    I’ve heard of sorrel, but had never actually seen it so appreciate your photos. I tend to love an unusual tasting green – tart, spicy, bitter – so I’d likely embrace a little sorrel. I especially like the idea of that tart.

  14. OysterCulture
    July 9, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    Rosa – Definitely check it out, delicious!

    Andrea – Me too. My box is not the standard CSA, but the “MysteryBox” and it is awesome, always scrambling to discover new veggies I never used before. I say scambling as fresh veggies wait for no woman.

    Stevie – That dish sounds amazing, I’ll have to see if I can find a similar recipe. Thanks for the add, would love to do likewise, but you have such an amazingly diverse blog, not sure if I can put you in one category =)

    Carolyn – Happy to help and look forward to learning what you do with it.

    Laz – I can only imagine its magic in your creative hands.

    Angie – Its not that common, and I am not sure why. It is really yummy. If you get the chance, check it out.

    Sweetlife – Glad you had the chance to sample it, that is the real mystery, why its so rare.

    Sippity – That sounds lovely, sorrel and fish is a magical. Thanks for piping in!

    Claudia – Deborah’s book is a trusted resource in this kitchen- but then I love Greens.

    Louise – Its always like that I think!

    MoS – I only wish it lasted longer as I had a lot of fun exploring the options with it.

    Lori – The tart was excellent, unlike my photos which did not do it justice, quite the contrary. =)

  15. July 9, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    Thanks for the shout out on my Spicy Sorrel Pesto! Super article on an underused veggie/herb. Glad to have found your site (from a commenter on my site). …Susan

  16. July 13, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    My husband adores sorrel and begs me to cook with it: soups and sauces. But I have found that I don’t particularly like the flavor. Maybe I need to look into new ways to use it? I’ll try your sorrel and onion tart – husband will be super thrilled and I’ll give sorrel another go!

  17. July 16, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    i have to admit that I’m also in the dark as far as sorrel is concerned. i know I’d love it though.

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