There are 4 perennial vegetables that are commonly referred to as sorrels:
1. English sorrel – Rumex acetosa 2. French sorrel – Rumex scutatus 3. Red veined sorrel – Rumex sanguineus ssp. sanguineus 4. Sheep sorrel – Rumex acetosella
All 4 are discussed in the blog post but there are also wood sorrels which I didn’t cover since while they’re called sorrels they’re all in the genus Oxalidaceae and look a fair bit different than the above 3 sorrels. But check out wood sorrels too—many of them are also great perennial vegetables.
Let’s chat a bit about why I think sorrels are a great first perennial vegetable.
Sorrels are Awesome
One of the most common questions I get about perennial vegetables is from people looking for cold hardy perennial vegetables. Often the ones that are shared come from warmer climates and just can’t survive as perennials in colder areas—at least not without a lot of protection like greenhouses.
But sorrels are generally cold hardy and English sorrel is listed as being cold hardy down to zone 4 which means it can grow in most of the United States. The other 3 are listed down to zone 6.
Sorrels are also easy to grow and can be a good addition to your garden. I’ve got 5 French sorrels growing in my vegetable gardens and 5 red veined sorrels growing in some of my perennial growing spaces.
As long as you cut back the flower stalks they won’t spread (sheep sorrel being the exception which will spread—this is why I don’t grow it in my kitchen garden).
I’ve found sorrels to be a bit sensitive to heat and they tend to wilt on hot summer days if planted in full sun. I like to plant them in places that give them some shelter and shade to reduce this impact. I also keep them well mulched to help keep the soil cool and moist.
As long as the soil stays moist I find sorrels pop back even if they wilt during the middle of the day. But if they don’t recover at the end of the day make sure to give them some extra water.
Otherwise, sorrels are easy and don’t take a lot of effort to grow. If they do get a bit straggly looking just cut them back down almost to the ground. They will quickly regrow and produce an abundance of young leaves.
How do You Use Sorrels?
I like to add sorrels to my salads (the above picture is a mix of over 12 greens that includes 2 types of sorrels) but they’re also great on sandwiches and in wraps. But you can also cook with sorrels.
They’ve got a nice tart and lemony flavor that goes well with a lot of dishes or when mixed with other vegetables.
Do you grow sorrels? If so how do you use yours? Check out the blog post and leave a comment letting me know your favorite sorrel recipe!
I grow French and red veined sorrel. The French type is probably my favorite salad green, and that's the only way I have used it so far, though I'd like to try sorrel soup. As you say, it's painless and anybody who enjoys that lemony flavor ought to try it.
I don't much care for the red veined type—it seems to have some tannins that give it a leathery quality nobody in my family enjoys, even when the leaves are brand new. But I'm happy to grow it as a mulch plant and ornamental around my trees.
I believe you can grow these just fine in zone 5, at least, though they may need protection to overwinter successfully. But they could presumably grow as an annual too.
I have wood sorrel and sheep sorrel growing in patches throughout my 1/3 acre yard/garden/food Forrest in the making. The kids love them both and we all eat them raw. They are also a favorite of the chickens when they are foraging.
Also, I've used wood sorrel ground into a paste for wart removal.
Thanks for the comment on the blog post! You were the first so pie for you!
posted 2 weeks ago
I love sorrel! But not the red veined one, it doesn't really have the same taste. I grow English, buckler leaf and this year, Belleville sorrel (might be the same as French?). Use them in salads, but also to make sorrel sauce which is great for any fish, or add it to mayonnaise to go with cold salmon, fantastic!!!
Gardening in the UK and loving it in spite of the heavy clay, deer, pheasants, slugs....
We have French Sorrel growing vigorously under a fig tree, abundant to the point that I use it for chicken feed! It's terrific in salads and I add it to soups throughout winter.
Red Sorrel, we've got three plants that are much less vigorous. Nice colorful addition to salads.
Cool temperate, SE Australia.
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Location: geraldton, ontario
posted 2 weeks ago
We have planted bloody dock, true French and another larger leaf kind, and wild wood sorrel is left for ground cover in our gardens. All seem to do well in our zone 2a. Winters reach -40c usually with lots of snow for insulation. Rabbits love the bloody dock.
Location: St Louis County, MIssouri Zone 6B
posted 2 weeks ago
Sorrel is very high in oxalates, so if you are sensitive to them, like we are, take care! My health has improved greatly after removing high oxalate food from our diet. Do some googling on problems caused by oxalates. Sally Norton has written extensively. Good luck!
I'm definitely interested in growing more perennial vegetables. Sheep sorrel grows wild here, and it's a nuisance in the garden. But I use it to flavor other greens. Nice to know chickens like it!
I'd like to try some of the others, though, but it doesn't sound like like they'd care for my hot dry summers. So I'd need to grow in partial shade. Of the French, English, and Red-veined, would one variety or another be best for hot summers?
Do any of you have an idea whether sorrel can be used like rhubarb to be made into pies or to flavor drinks? From my experience growing sorrel, it seems more resilient and better adapted to my local climate than rhubarb since it more readily escapes cultivation in Ohio. The sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is especially common as a weed where I live among wild sorrel species. It tends to grow readily on abandoned golf couses and vacant lots.
Mandrake...takes on and holds the influence
of the devil more than other herbs because of its similarity
to a human. Whence, also, a person’s desires, whether good
or evil, are stirred up through it...
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Matt – Nice, yeah sorrel is great in salads. I almost always include a few leaves when I’m making a salad. Thanks for sharing!
Claire – I like wood sorrels too. There is a native one here that I really want to get established. Be great in some shady areas along my hedgerows. Thanks for sharing and for the comment on the blog post!
Chris – Nice! Yeah, the red veined is a bit different but I like to mix it in with other greens. Just not too much of it. I’ve found that the more moist the soil stays the better it tastes. I have it in 2 locations. One is fairly dry and the leaves there tend to be tough but I have 3 in a much better area and those have tasted much better.
Mark – Yeah it can be very productive! I have 6 French sorrel right now and I can’t keep up with it. I’m about to start feeding it to my worms in my worm bin. But feeding it to chickens is a great use too! Thanks for sharing!
Renee – Nice, great to hear that they’re all doing well in your area! I’m sure all the snow helps a lot.
Linda – Yeah, they do have oxalates. I just mix it in with my other greens so it’s never a big part of my diet. But if your sensitive to it then yeah avoiding it would be a good idea.
Leigh – Red veined is fairly sensitive to heat. French sorrel does okay here but sometimes wilts and this area doesn’t get as hot as your area does. I don’t have the English type growing at my place right now.
I would look for a decent sized shrub and try planting some French or English sorrel next to the shrub on the east side of it. That way it will get morning and early afternoon sun but get shaded in the mid to late afternoon. If you mulch it well too I think you would have a good chance at getting it successfully established.
Ryan – I don’t know if it can be used that way or not. It’s often used in soups and my wife and I use it in cooking to replace greens in dishes that also call for lemon juice. We also like sorrels in salads. Be interesting to try it in other ways.
Thanks all for the comments! Really great to see how many people are enjoying sorrels!
Cultivate abundance for people, plants and animals - Wild Homesteading
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
posted 2 days ago
Great blog post, thanks for sharing! : )
I grew a sorrel in my old garden, many years ago. This was mid-Atlantic states, zone 7. I'm afraid I don't remember what species it was, but I'm sure it was either French or English sorrel.
I am curious that the OP describes the leaves as tender. I found that they had a very fine texture, and in fact would immediately wilt into slimy nothing when cooked, but also that they had very distinctive, tough, unpleasant fibers in them. Perhaps I wasn't harvesting the leaves young enough, but I think I recall nibbling on small leaves out of hand in the garden and confirming they too had the fibers.
My best luck was making cream of sorrel soup. It was so tasty! Everyone loved it, and it froze very well. I don't recall the exact recipe, but I know it was pretty simple: boiled sorrel leaves, blended to a smooth paste with some salt, some cream, and I think maybe some chicken stock. They key step was forcing the sorrel through a fine mesh sieve after cooking it in order to extract as many of those fibers as possible.