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FOOD Sweet surprise of sour sorrel

Outdoor Living

Common sorrel is a versatile wild herb that can cultivated easily in in the garden.
?Common sorrel is a versatile wild herb that can cultivated easily in in the garden.

Sweet surprise of sour sorrel

Organic Growing
Hans Wieland

During the autumn I had the great pleasure of walking along some beautiful lanes and hedgerows in Donegal. I was helping my wife, Gaby, who was giving workshops on ‘Secret treasures – Herbs of the hedgerow’ to local primary school children, their parents and the wider community. The children had great fun foraging for edible plants they were shown earlier in the classroom and which, on their return, would be consumed in green smoothies and wild pesto.
We found nettles, dandelions, daisies, chickweed, silverweed, herb Robert, coltsfoot, plantain and ribwort, blackberries and haws and lots of sorrel. For the children and the teachers, it was an adventure to find all those edible plants right on their doorstep. It was a real eye-opener for many to hear about why they are good for our health, especially when they heard that many outperform vegetables when it comes to their vitamin and mineral content.
It was interesting to note that nobody gave out about those ‘weeds’. Nobody got stressed out, because they were growing happily in their habitat along the lanes. Imagine if we had found them in private gardens! (Mind you we found chickweed and young dandelion leaves in a few flowerbeds…)

Winter wonder  
One of the highlights of those walks was finding and tasting common sorrel. With its striking arrow-shaped leaves and its fine sour taste, it is unmistakable. As Gaby’s little booklet explains, “Sorrel is a perennial herb that likes rich acid soil, full sun or partial shade. You can use the leaves raw in a salad especially the buckler leaf variety. It can be used with lettuce to make a tasty soup or just cooked like spinach.”
Sorrel is one of those weeds that has actually made it from the wild into the cultivated garden. Sorrel produces leaves through most of the winter, and can be grown from seed or transplanted into the garden by digging up a root in the spring or autumn.
The usefulness of sorrel in the ‘wild food pantry’ lies in the name: “Sorrel is a corruption of the Old French surele, meaning sour. This quality Sorrel surely has, but in a nicely sharp, lemony manner” (J Lewins-Stempel, ‘Foraging – The essential guide to free wild food’). Its unique flavour is particularly good when paired with rich fatty meats, and chefs have started using sorrel sauce with pork and duck.
And as you probably have heard or read already, it is one of the main ingredients of the famous Grüne Sosse (green sauce). The other six original ingredients are parsley, dill, chives, lemon balm, salad burnet and tarragon, according to Gaby – who should know, as she is from Hesse, where this recipe originates. The full recipe is available in ‘Neantóg Cookbook – Gaby’s favourite recipes’, by Gaby Weiland.

This is my last article of the year. Thanks for reading and the for many e-mails you have sent me with comments and feedback. See you in 2015!