Wood sorrel: Turning my garden into public grazing lands?

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

Wood sorrel, Oxalis stricta

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.

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What to do with perennial sorrel? Smoked Salmon Benedict with Sorrel Sauce

My friend gave me a clump of sorrel last year. I planted it promptly, and have done nothing with it.

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

We don’t eat much sorrel around here. I don’t see it in the supermarket or the farmer’s market. But it is the best kind of vegetable: a perennial that doesn’t require much in the way of care. I can tell it has been sampled rarely by a slug or snail, but I suppose it is too tangy for them to truly enjoy. I have not seen any sign of disease, despite the generous helping of neglect I have given it.

What am I afraid of?

I did a bit of searching around to find a recipe worth trying. The Splendid Table never lets me down.

Smoked Salmon Benedict with Sorrel Sauce

I made the recipe for one, which was actually worth the trouble. I started by roughly chopping the shallot. I’m not a chef; I don’t produce lovely square mince, especially when I’m cooking for myself. Next year, the shallots will come from my garden. I picked and washed a handful of sorrel leaves and chopped them roughly. I couldn’t find crumpets at the market, but I did find whole-wheat English muffins.

I started the sauce, browning the shallot and half the sorrel in butter. The sorrel cooks down instantly into a kind of slime-colored pulp, but do soldier on. Add the cream and salt. I used light cream instead of heavy.

Then I started poaching the egg. Not being the patient type who will turn an egg over and over in the water, I sprayed a ramekin with cooking spray and cracked in the egg.

Tip: Contrary to the recipe, start the egg before starting the sauce. The sauce cooks instantly and adhered to the pan. Fortunately, it was nothing a little white wine couldn’t cure. And maybe a dollop more butter.

A little bit of deglazing, and it’s time to assemble and eat. I garnished with the chives I harvested and froze a few weeks back.

smoked salmon benedict

The whole process took perhaps ten minutes, and the result was outstanding. It’s amazing how a little culinary effort can turn the day around. I felt like a civilized person as I sat down to eat–something I don’t typically feel before feasting on a cold turkey sandwich.

Treat yourself this week!