Sorrel Sorrel is a perennial herbaceous plant in the family Polygonaceae. Other names for sorrel include spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock ('dock' is a common name for the genus Rumex).
Sorrel is the common name of the species Rumex acetosa. It has a sour flavor and is used in cooking, primarily in soups and sauces. Sorrel is similar in appearance to dock (of which it may be considered a type) and rhubarb. Sorrel, however, is a perennial plant, whereas docks are generally herbaceous annuals (occasionally biennials).
In North America, some people eat the young leaves as a salad green during spring and summer. In France, sorrel is valued both as a cooking green and for its juice, which tastes much like lemonade. Sorrel is also popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, where it is used to make a sour soup called fool mudammas.
There are many cultivated varieties of sorrel, some of which, like the American 'New Zealand' rhubarb, are hybrids between sorrel and rhubarb. There are also cultivars of Rumex acetosa with variegated leaf patterns. Other related species, such as sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), commonly occur in similar habitats. In some parts of the world, plants recognized as "docks" may be either species of Rumex or sorrels (such as garden sorrel).
The leaves are arrow-shaped and about wide. They look rather like those of the unrelated sorrel (of the genus Rumex) and they contain a sour juice that makes them useful as a flavoring in salads or for making soups, particularly among people of Lithuanian, French, English, Irish, Scottish, Ukrainian, Russian and Scandinavian descent.
A perennial, Rumex acetosa grows wild in many parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, where it is considered a weed and can be found growing on banks and waste ground. It has been introduced into North America and Australia and also grows wild there. This species has become naturalized along roadsides, abandoned fields, and similar disturbed areas.
Sorrel has been used as a vegetable since antiquity. It was consumed by ancient Greeks and given to guests at wedding ceremonies in Athens. In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder noted that sorrel would have been cultivated if not for its sharp taste, which he attributed to soil salt content.
The plants are largely self-infertile. They flower from May to August with the seeds ripening from June onwards. The plants prefer a well-drained sunny position and moist soil which is rich in humus. When grown as a vegetable crop, sorrel is usually harvested before flowering when it reaches about high. The taste of sorrels varies from very acidic to mildly sweet.