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 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.
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.