In the ancient world, garden sorrel was an extremely well-liked culinary herb. Since the 14th century, garden sorrel has been extensively used in the form of a vegetable and salad plant in the West. It is actually bush-like plant that grows perennially up to a height of anything between 30 cm to 150 cm (one foot to five feet). On the other hand, French sorrel has been in use in French kitchens ever since the commencement of that European nation's documented history. French sorrel is a short-growing perennial herb that is usually 45 cm (18 inches) in height. However, some French sorrel may be growing up to a width of 60 cm or two feet. Garden sorrel is indigenous to Europe as well as Asia; while French sorrel has its origin in the mountains located in the southern and central regions of Europe and southwest Asia.
The leaves of the garden sorrel are big, slender and arrow-shaped and have a green color. These leaves emerge from a dense basal clump and have a reddish tinge when they are young. The leaves of garden sorrel possess a unique, slightly astringent flavour akin to that of spinach. The leaves also have a sharp citrus smack owing to the high amount of oxalic acid enclosed by them. On the other hand, the leaves of French sorrel are green and appear like a shield. The French sorrel leaves are juicier and sharply acidic compared to those of garden sorrel. French sorrel leaves possess a distinct lemon flavour.
The stem of garden sorrel grows straight and has several branches and deep roots. On the other hand, the stems of French sorrel are prostate or climbing forming dense clusters. In addition, they have a strong and branched rootstock.
Garden sorrel bears petite flowers having a reddish-green hue, while the flowers of French sorrel too are small, but have a green color, which changes to reddish-brown later. Garden sorrel comprises both male as well as female plants. On the other hand, the flowers of French sorrel usually have both sexes. Garden as well as French sorrel flower during the middle of summer.
Unlike garden sorrel, French sorrel may also be cultivated indoors for use during the winter months.
Garden sorrel was used in the form of an antiseptic in conventional folk medicine. Owing to the elevated vitamin C content of garden sorrel, it was rightly believed to put off scurvy. The roots and seeds of garden sorrel were recommended in the form of a common tonic and were employed to cure diarrhea - a suitable use considering the high content of tannin in them. Besides garden sorrel, even French sorrel was used to treat scurvy, encourage urination as well as the circulation of blood. Externally, sorrel was employed to heal skin complaints as well as to help in having a clear complexion.
In addition to having a rich content of vitamin C, both types of sorrel possess elevated amounts of vitamin A, and are an excellent botanical source of iron. French sorrel is also a wonderful source of fiber.
Sorrel is a popular French culinary herb and is frequently utilized in French cooking. In fact, sorrel forms the primary ingredient of classic culinary items like soupe aux herbes and sorrel soup. It is worth mentioning here that traditionalists insist that French sorrel may only be used to prepare sorrel soup, however, if you are simply becoming familiar with sorrel, you would also do well to substitute it with the milder garden sorrel.
You may also include sorrel in your preferred chard and spinach recipes and also use it in preparing soufflés and omelettes. In addition, sorrel may also be added to sauces, particularly those that are meant to go along with veal, lamb, fish, goose, duck and shellfish dishes. In effect, sorrel is a spicy inclusion in blended green salads and early spring salads. Irrespective of what your recipe is, you may use sorrel in moderation, tasting as you prepare the dish, while the sharp essence does take getting used to.
The leaves of French sorrel possess an enjoyable lemony flavour and majority of the people find them intense when used in large amounts, but they also make a pleasurable addition to the salad bowl and may also be employed in the form of pot-herbs. The leaves of this species have less acid and, therefore, are frequently favoured in comparison to sorrel (botanical name, R. acetosa). However, it is important to note that the leaves ought to be used in moderation owing to their oxalic acid content.
The well-accepted French culinary herb also possesses craft utilities. For instance, you may incorporate dehydrated garden sorrel blooms in floral displays as well as bouquets.
Habitat and cultivation
Garden as well as French sorrels grow best in the profound, rich, damp, but properly drained soil. In fact, the sorrels can somewhat endure a wide variety of soil pH, while garden sorrel has a preference for acidic soils. In addition, both types of sorrels have a preference for complete sunlight, but will also endure limited shade. Compared to the garden sorrel, the French sorrel is more resilient to drought. On the other hand, garden sorrel prefers cool temperatures and hot weather conditions actually augment the leaves' acidity levels.
You may propagate garden sorrels as well as French sorrels from their seeds, which ought to be sown in situ outdoors in the garden either during fall or in the early part of spring. The seeds need to be sowed at least 6 mm or 1/4 inch under the soil. The seedling should be planted a minimum of 30 cm (one foot) apart from one another. In addition, it is also possible to propagate garden sorrel by means of root division, while French soil may be propagated by dividing the adequately grown clumps once in every third or fourth year.
When the young plants are established, garden sorrel has a propensity to sow by themselves. Since just a few plants are generally adequate for majority of the home gardens, you need to harvest the plants that you do not desire in your garden. In fact, get rid of the flower stalks of both types of sorrels to put off the plants from seeding as well as to promote the growth of new tender leaves.
It is advisable that you replace the garden sorrel plants once in every third or fourth year, since they have a tendency to turn woody. It may be noted here that while sorrels are generally free from diseases, they are vulnerable to invasion by slugs.
In case you are growing French sorrels indoors, the plants require a minimum of five hours of direct and powerful sunlight every day. In order to accommodate the long roots of French sorrels, grow them in a pot in deep containers of commercial potting soil. Feed the plants with 50 per cent of the potency of liquid fertilizers once in every two weeks.
Plants which have established well have the aptitude to tolerate drought. Some times, French sorrel plants are grown for their leaves, which are edible. There are a number of named assortments of the French sorrel which have been chosen for their ornamental worth. The sorrels are an excellent food for caterpillars of several butterfly species.
Side effects and cautions
Individuals using or those intending to use garden and French sorrels for therapeutic reasons ought to be aware of the potential side effects caused by these species, if any, and take necessary precautions. For instance, it is important that you consume these two sorrels reasonably, since both contain high levels of oxalic acid that may result in kidney stones in a number of people. In case you are susceptible to hyperacidity, you ought to possibly keep away from sorrel, since it also has an elevated acid content that may result in gastric disorders. In case you are enduring kidney stones or gout, or if you have suffered kidney ailments in the past, you ought to never consume sorrel. A number of authorities have also suggested that individuals suffering from arthritis or rheumatism should keep away from consuming sorrel.
In addition, sorrel should never be cooked in pots made of wrought iron, since the oxalic acid present in the leaves will interact with the metal and the leaves of the plant will possess an unpleasant metallic flavour. You ought to also stay away from using aluminum utensils while cooking sorrels, because the oxalic acid in the leaves may possibly release poisonous amount of aluminum ions. Always ensure that you use stainless steel utensils as well as cookware while cooking sorrel.
Here is another word of caution: keep away from tea prepared from sorrel owing to the oxalates and also owing to the fact that sorrel works in the form of a diuretic.
The sorrel plants, either garden sorrel or French sorrel, are likely to enclose elevated levels of oxalic acid that is responsible for the acid-lemon flavour of the leaves of several species of this genus. When taken in small or measured amounts, sorrel is completely safe. However, the leaves of this species ought not to be consumed in excessive amount as the oxalic acid may put away other nourishments in the ingested food, particularly calcium, thereby, resulting in deficient of minerals. The content of oxalic acid would be diminished when the plant is cooked.
Collection and harvesting
Garden sorrel should be harvested for using fresh all through the plant's growing season. In case you have a preference an additionally pungently sour flavour, refrain collecting the leaves till the sorrel plants are already into their growing season, at which point of time the essence is completely developed.
In the case of French sorrel, you should start collecting the leaves from recently sown plant to make use of them fresh. This should be done approximately two months following the planting. When you have young plants like these, you may also collect the shoots as a whole. While the plants are growing, harvest the leaves individually, instead of the entire stalks.
In order to preserve sorrel, you need to rinse as well as dry up the leaves, cover them in a sheet of towel made from paper and store them in a plastic bag in a refrigerator. While sorrels have a tendency to droop soon after they have been picked, it may be noted that the wilted sorrels too keep hold of much of the plant's characteristic flavour.
In order to dry up sorrel, place the leaves flat in a dark, chilly and arid place where the air circulation is excellent. Pound the dried up leaves and stock them up them in a sealed container. If you wish to freeze garden and French sorrels, first rinse and dry out the tender leaves, cover them in a foil and put them in the freezer or pulverize the leaves and freeze them in the ice cube trays.
The garden sorrel flowers may also be used for decoration. Cut the stalks of the garden sorrel flowers for using them in floral displays just when the blooms are becoming red in hue.