French sorrel in tomato bisque

I grow French sorrel in my herb garden.

I love being able to go out into my herb garden to get fresh seasonings. Most of my herbs are perennials, like the sorrel (Rumex scutatus) pictured above, and the chives and thyme growing next to it. I also have sage, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram growing in various places in the yard. Some of the herbs live in my herb garden, while others are planted in the flower borders. Herbs are a terrific addition to a landscape as well as to meals.

I also grow annual herbs such as parsley, cilantro and basil, all of which self-seed and come up the next year. Well, not so much the basil. I can kill that one off pretty easily by neglecting to water it often enough.

French sorrel growing with thyme and chives.

French sorrel is an herb that few people in the U.S. seem to grow. That’s a shame, because sorrel is great in soups and bisques, adding a nice lemony flavor. That lemony tang comes from oxalic acid, so I never put too much of it in soups. I’m also careful to use non-reactive cookware (non-stick pots and wooden spoons, no aluminum or iron cookware) when cooking with it.

French sorrel is native to moutainous regions of southern and Central Europe, and Asia, and has been a part of French cooking for as long as records have been kept there. 

I have one clump of sorrel in my herb garden, and it grows just about as fast as we want to eat it. I decided to make a nice tomato-sorrel bisque today. Sometimes I make my tomato bisque from scratch. Alas, I had no ripe tomatoes in my late November garden, so I resorted to canned soup.

Sorrel and thyme from my herb garden improved a canned soup.
  I sliced a half-dozen sorrel leaves and sauteed them in butter until they were wilted. The nice green leaves turn into a nasty-looking brown mush at this step. Maybe that’s why more people don’t eat sorrel. But looks aren’t everything. 

Saute sorrel in butter or olive oil until wilted.

I added the can of condensed tomato soup, a can of milk and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. I simmered it for several minutes, then removed the thyme and served. Homemade rosemary bread would have been a great accompaniment to the soup, but I spent the day in the garden laying more paving stones and had no time to bake bread. I had rosemary Triscuits with my soup instead.

Tomato bisque with sorrel and thyme.

 The other way that I use sorrel is in potato soup. It adds a nice tangy flavor to an otherwise bland soup. Some people add baby sorrel leaves to salads, but because of the oxalic acid content, I prefer to cook it and add milk to buffer the acid. (Uh, oh, the biochemist in me is coming out there.) The French use sorrel in other ways, notably in a sorrel sauce for salmon or with veal.

For more recipes using sorrel, see http://annlovejoy.org/2009/05/20/french-sorrel-recipes-from-the-green-kitchen/.

So the next time you see a pot of sorrel offered at the nursery, snap it up. You also can grow sorrel pretty easily from seed, but probably won’t want more than one or two plants.

(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com/blogs_and_columns/)

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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3 Responses to French sorrel in tomato bisque

  1. Thomas says:

    I’ve never cooked with sorrel before, but it definitely looks like an interesting herb!

  2. LGC says:

    I love Sorrel and buy it frozen , it looks alot like spinach when it is bought this way.. dont know if you can get this in the states [ Im in Hungary]… I have friends there though who might want to get some, so you mentioned you can just go t oa nursery and buy it, or hte seed? sounds great!

    • Hi LGC. I’m thrilled to have a visitor to my blog from Hungary. One of my brothers-in-law in Hungarian. I bought my sorrel as a started herb at my local garden center in spring. Most seed catalogs sell sorrel seed, but I’ve never grown it from seed. I find that one plant is plenty for my needs.

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