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Let’s grow sorrel

 
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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If your wanting to get started with perennial vegetables sorrels are a great place to start. This week’s blog post—Sorrel – A Fantastic and Easy-to-Grow Perennial Vegetable —dives into these awesome perennial vegetables.

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!

While you are over on the blog most make sure to leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.
 
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Location: Reeds Spring, MO; zone 6b Ozarks
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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.
 
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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.
Staff note (Daron Williams) :

Thanks for the comment on the blog post! You were the first so pie for you!

 
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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!!!
 
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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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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.
 
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Location: St Louis County, MIssouri Zone 6B
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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!
 
author & gardener
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Location: Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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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?
 
pioneer
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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.
 
Daron Williams
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Hey all sorry for the delay in replying to you all. I will be on later today with replies. Thanks for the comments and again sorry for the delay!
 
Daron Williams
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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!
 
pollinator
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Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
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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.
 
Daron Williams
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I do cut my sorrel back ever so often to keep young leaves coming up. So far the leaves have been great. I eat them a lot raw and my wife has been experimenting with using them in cooked meals that call for lemon juice to be added that also call for greens. Sorrel so far has been great at providing both greens and the lemon flavor
 
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I am just starting to convert my orchard to a food forest and this plant is on the top of my list, Iam thankful for the information on all the different types which should help me pick the right one for my area 6 growing.
 
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I love sorrels. We add them to salads in small handfuls. I wish they'd last a littler longer once the frost hits.
 
pollinator
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Thanks for all the great information everyone! I've been getting to surf the forums since I have been sick today and I am finding all sorts of awesome things. A whole perennials forum! I should have gone looking for that!

Mathew, I am going to HAVE to try to find that recipe. I have more sorrel than I know what to do with.

I have the red veined sorrel at the moment, I will get the french sorrel as soon as I can, just haven't been able to get my hands on it here in Aus yet. And you are so right they are very different plants but the lemony tang rings true in them both.

With the red sorrel, I very highly recommend adding them to stir fries! I use them that way a lot or even adding them in with a bunch of other greens to add to ramen. We have a lot of ramen here (mine with zucchini or other veg noodles usually) and a few leaves added in to wilt with the chineese cabbage, or choy sum or turnip greens never goes awry. I also add them chopped finely and briefly sauteed to omelettes! They are a wonderful perennial resource to have on hand. I look forward to reading more ideas on how to use it!
 
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Do I need seeds or does it grow wild and I can transplant some?
 
Aimee Hall
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Some sorrels do grow wild but I highly recommend starting this easy perennial from seeds purchased for the varieties you would like. Good luck!
 
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What a great thread. I read Paul's book a couple of weeks ago and made a small hugelkultur bed afterwards. I planted a few common sorrel plants (English sorrel I think you call it - I'm in the UK) I found at the garden centre. It grows wild here but there is none near my house I could forage. I didn't realise it was a perennial so that's a bonus!  I've enjoyed a few leaves so far but need to wait for it to establish.
 
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I have a sorrel question. I've had French sorrel in my garden for a few years as a perennial (9b, it dies back with the frost but always comes back). It turned into this huge knobby weirdness so I dug it out this fall and divided it into 4 parts and planted the parts out. It was nice and warm after that but not the tiniest shoot came back. Is it possible that it will sprout from those nasty woody root knobs, once spring is here for sure, or is it a lost cause?

(this winter is weirder than usual and all the plants are confused. I have sunflowers opening and my loofas never died back. We had two cold snaps so far, but last week it was pure summer weather..... this week, we're being told to expect SNOW. I live in a part of Brazil where this hasn't happened since 1975).
 
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I've grown sorrel for years, not red-veined type, but I have no idea WHAT type. Is there a photo spread somewhere that shows the differences?

 
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Richters in Canada sells a variety called Profusion.  It is "patented" by them.  Will never bolt.  Amazing taste.  You can split it so easily.  I think you HAVE to get it from them but its worth it.
 
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In terms of relying on this crop for diet how much of a yield can you get from a single sorrel plant while maintaining a healthy long living perennial? In terms of how regularly you could harvest and how much? I'm just curious what a reasonable amount is to grow or how much it's usage could be, that being said I still want to grow this either way just maybe useful in judging how much space could be dedicated to it.
 
Aimee Hall
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I get about a kilo per year of of my plants. I could maybe harvest more but I like the tender new growth best. I do have my sorrel in a shady spot to which may slow production. I hope this ball park helps you some though. This is the harvest throughout the year, not all at once and that is just the average. I am weird.... I track everything because I love numbers. -_-
 
sam mintgreen
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Aimee Hall wrote:I get about a kilo per year of of my plants. I could maybe harvest more but I like the tender new growth best. I do have my sorrel in a shady spot to which may slow production. I hope this ball park helps you some though. This is the harvest throughout the year, not all at once and that is just the average. I am weird.... I track everything because I love numbers. -_-



is that per plant or how many plants?
 
Aimee Hall
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For me that is per plant. These are established plants and it does vary some, for example my records show that one got found by deer and only produced .6kg for me that year. But overall they have averaged about 1kg per year each. I really hope that helps! =)
 
sam mintgreen
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Aimee Hall wrote:For me that is per plant. These are established plants and it does vary some, for example my records show that one got found by deer and only produced .6kg for me that year. But overall they have averaged about 1kg per year each. I really hope that helps! =)



that's some incredible analysis!
 
Aimee Hall
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Thank you so much. I make it a habit to weigh all of my harvests, I just keep a scale and notebook in the kitchen so it has become habit and I keep a spreadsheet so I know which varieties do well for me. Though, everyone thinks I am crazy for recording all my numbers into spreadsheets. lol!
 
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