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Sorrel — My New Favorite Leafy Green Herb

July 25, 2008

Recently my pre-teen niece came to visit. She’s always been a picky eater, and as she approaches her teen years she’s at least tasting some new things. She never likes the new things, but at least she’s giving into my pleas to, “Come on…just one little bite. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it.” Rather than continuing to be frustrated with her phoo-phoo’ing of all the amazing flavors of the culinary world, I’ve started taking a different perspective of her situation.

As a kid I was willing to eat just about anything. That’s probably why I ballooned into a chubby teen when puberty hit. There were a few things I never enjoyed –okra, brussel sprouts, and beets come to mind. So, unlike my niece, I didn’t have much food discovery left to me when I grew up. I’d already experienced so many of the foods out there. And, as a foodie, I crave finding new tastes.

I was thrilled about eight years ago when I tasted a beet that I actually kind of liked. I’d always thought they tasted like sweet dirt, and, well, I guess I still think that. But, my adult pallet now craves that flavor! I’ve even had a few pickled okra in my adult years that don’t totally gross me out. The brussel sprouts, well, as much as those cute little buttery bundles look good, they just don’t work for me. So, sadly, my “to be discovered” list is still quite small.

Yes, I recognize that there are loads of foods around the world I’ve never tried. I’m not about to go dig up grubs in the garden just to see what those taste like, and I try to eat locally, so I’m not going to import a lot of crazy fruit from south america just to make my tongue happy. So, back to my diverse, but pretty regular diet. (Anyone else get sick of their own cooking now & again?)

Last weekend I was visiting our local farmer’s market and stopped at an herb booth. The vendor was offering herbal sodas and herbal teas. I ordered a nettle tea that looked and tasted like swamp water, but I know the stuff is amazing for me, and it was pretty refreshing. She also had a fresh, leafy green for sale on her table.

“What’s this?” I asked.

Turns out it was sorrel. She had me tear a piece off to taste. Wow! What a tangy, lemony plant. Now, its not a “sweet lemon” like lemon grass, lemon balm or lemon verbena. Its more of a “tangy-tart lemon” like the “lemon weed clover” I used to munch on as a kid in northern California. (Sorry folks, don’t know the name of the lemon weed.)

I ended up plunking down $4 for a small bunch of sorrel. She told me that its incredibly easy to grow, and it comes back after being cut to the ground. So, I knew getting a few plants was likely to be my next step. I certainly wasn’t going to pay that kind of price for a vegetable I could grow & likely couldn’t kill.

Sorrel is a member of the Rumex genus. If you’re familiar with Dock weed, you’ll quickly realize why she said cutting the plant to the ground won’t kill it. These suckers are tough! It’s important to tip out flowers to keep the sorrel from bolting and going to seed. And, leaves can be harvested, as needed throughout the season.

Today, I spent $3.49 on a 4″ pot containing 3 sorrel plants. The Herbfarm Cookbook indicates that 3 plants are sufficient for the average kitchen. Now I just need to find the right spot for them in my garden.

If you’re wondering what I did with the cut sorrel I bought at the farmer’s market, well I experimented. I tore up a few leaves into green salad and enjoyed the raw tanginess. I sauted several and cooked them into a tart with gruyere cheese, carmelized Walla-Walla spring onions, and fresh morel mushrooms. And, I used the last bit tossed with new potatoes roasted in foil on the grill. All were amazing!

If you haven’t enjoyed sorrel, consider grabbing a bunch at your farmer’s market. And, if you’ve got a picky eater at home, rather than get upset at what they’re missing, be envious of all the great opportunities coming to their tongue in the future!

And, if you’re just getting into gardening with herbs, read more about them in my earlier post, Herbs in the Garden — Some Thoughts.

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