There are several sorrels among our garden and meadow plants that show off yellow or reddish flowers. Today I am speaking of wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella).
First, wood sorrel’s bright green leaves are obvious and often considered weeds at garden borders, meadow carpets, roadsides. Several sources recommend that they be used fresh or made into a tea. The juice of the plant material contains vitamin C which gives it a sour taste. It was also favored as a pot herb till Henry VIII favored French Sorrel with its large tasty leaves. Tiny wood sorrel grew out of favor.
I like to add a handful to a salad or to a solar tea. Solar teas are easy to make. Gather edible herb flowers such as peppermint, spearmint, red clover, wild daisy and place in a glass jar. Fill with water and let steep in the sun. A couple of hours later you have a refreshing summer time tea.
In Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill, he comments that he often teaches young children this plant first. They like the lemony sour taste.
This clover like plant is easy to identify. It is small maybe 4-6″ in height, with heart shaped leaves, and a tiny yellow flower. It can be eaten raw, right from the garden but not handfuls everyday due to its high oxalate content. Sorrels soups, popular in Europe, combined with milk or cream supply calcium which oxalates can block. It is thought that the addition of dairy mitigates the possible loss of calcium from oxalate action.
Sheep sorrel, though it has the same common name, is not of the same family: Rumex acetosella. What is the same is the sour taste to the leaves and also it contains vitamin C. The leaves resemble a sheep’s face hence the common name. It also shoots up a stalk where the flowers turn reddish and that characteristic makes it easy to identify. This plant can be gathered from spring to frost as it doesn’t change flavor with the heat of summer.
I see the sheep sorrel leaves too among the garden weeds and its flowers in some areas are turning red. Sheep sorrel is used in the herb formula known as Essiac, that may help mitigate early stage cancers. The leaves can be added to salads and solar teas as well as the wood sorrel species. Both of these sorrels have a cooling property which is refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
Sorrels, two different species, are abundant at this time of year. Always make sure you have identified the correct plant before consuming.
What are your favorite sun teas recipes? I would like to hear from you.