Waiting for the school bus a couple of weeks ago, my neighbor’s son wandered over to a patch of weeds and plucked up a handful.
“What are you doing?” my daughter asked. “Are you eating weeds?!”
“It’s wood sorrel,” said the boy. “It’s good. It tastes sour, kind of lemony.”
Wood sorrel is a member of the genus Oxalis. It is edible, if you go for that sort of thing. The leaves, seed pods, and flowers are all safe to eat raw or cooked. My neighbor’s son likes the seed pods especially: “We call them sour bananas.”
The plant is high in vitamin C. It also has diuretic properties and is high in potassium oxalate and oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is a compound also found in grapefruit, parsley, broccoli, spinach, and many other vegetables. While it’s unlikely that anyone would consume enough wood sorrel to suffer any toxic effects from the oxalic acid, people with kidney disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout should avoid consuming oxalis until they consult with a medical professional.
Have I stumbled upon a new means of organic weed management? I envision herds of grazing children, replacing their favorite Sour Patch Kids with this weed that proliferates in my garden. More likely, I’ve found a new phenological cue: “When you see the children grazing, the sorrel is setting seed.” This reminds me that I had clearly better get to the weeding, unless I hope to find even more of the stuff in my garden beds next year.
By the way, my daughter knows not to eat anything in the garden without first checking with me. Encourage your kids to check with you before eating wild plants–even if their friends do it.
For more information:
- Oxalis (Wikipedia)
- The Handbook of Edible Weeds, by James A. Duke
- Wild Edibles-The Delicious, Lemony, Medicinal Wood Sorrel
- Foraging and Cooking With Wild Sorrel