Our Guide to Foraging for

Sorrel

Rumex acetosa

A member of the dock family, Sorrel is very common across the UK.

 

Throughout history, Sorrel has been given many names in relation to its properties and folklore associated with it – it’s tart taste resulted in the plant being called ‘sour ducks’ or ‘vinegar plant’. Its latin name is rumex, which derives from ‘rumicis’,  an ancient word for the dock and sorrel family. 

Guide for foraging sorrel

When & Where

Sorrel an be found virtually anywhere in the UK in open grassland such as meadows, fields, parks, lawns and sometimes open woodland. It prefers an acidic soil that’s rich in iron.  

Flower | April – August 

Leaves | March  – December

Seeds | June – September 

Did you know?

The Romans and Greeks used to nibble the leaves after overindulging, as it has a soothing effect on the stomach. The juice of Common Sorrel is said to be so acidic, it used to be used to curdle milk!

 

Dyes can also be made from various parts of the plant – the roots produce greens, grey and browns, while the leaves and stems produce a blue-grey.

Possible Confusions

Bindweed

Bindweed can often be mistaken for Common Sorrel, as it grows in the same habitat with a similar leaf-shape. The easiest way to tell these two apart is that sorrel grows in a rosette and bindweed is a trailing plant. 

Lords and Ladies

During the spring, Sorrel can be confused with young Lords and Ladies, a toxic inedible plant that can cause severe pain and irritation. However, Sorrel has spiked tails, whereas Lords and Ladies’ are more rounded. 

 

Sheep’s Sorrel

Sheep’s sorrel can also be confused due to it being of a similar nature, however the leaves of this plant tends to have more of a flared shield shape to it. Sheep’s Sorrel is also edible, therefore the risk of confusing the two is minimal. 

Bindweed
Lord and Ladies leaf
Lords and Ladies
Sheeps sorrel image
Sheep's Sorrel

Flavour and How To Use

 

Sorrel leaves have a distinctive lemony or citrussy tang, which many describe to be like a tart apple peel. The leaves are best used fresh, it doesn’t much like heat and is shy of a knife, quickly wilting and turning an unpleasant sludge colour.

 

Its leaves and flowers are used raw in salads, or can be used to replace lemon or lime in dishes requiring an acidic zing. Sorrel can be used as a garnish, a salad leaf, a green for a great soup, stews or as a sweet ingredient for cakes and sorbets.

 

The Romans and Greeks used to nibble the leaves after overindulging, as it has a soothing effect on the stomach.

 

The juice of Common Sorrel is said to be so acidic, it used to be used to curdle milk!

 

Dyes can also be made from various parts of the plant – the roots produce greens, grey and browns, while the leaves and stems produce a blue-grey.

Important Things to Note

As with picking any wild ingredients, always take precautions for your own safety.

 

High in oxalic acid, sorrel can be dangerous for humans or animals when consuming large quantities (you would need to consume a rather large amount of leaves to have a negative effect). 

 

Consuming Sorrel regularly should be avoided if you have joint or bladder issues, are taking any blood thinners, have joint issues or bladder stones. 

Medicinal Properties

Sorrel not only has an amazing flavour, high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B9, C and potassium. 


Containing diuretic and cooling properties, it can be used for an abundance of treatments such as: ringworm, bloating, skin irritations, constipation, water retention and jaundice. 

 

Sorrel has also been credited with aiding eyesight, lowering blood pressure, helping to stem bleeding, increased bone strength and even preventing cancer. 

Our Foraging Tips

Ask permission. 

Essential if you’re picking on private land. As with everything, respect is key and goes a long way.

 

If in doubt, leave it out. 

Why rush? Nature isn’t going anywhere! Take time to ensure you safely identify your finds.

 

One step at a time.

No one becomes an expert overnight. Build up your identification skills and your confidence will grow. 

 

Enjoy the process.

Foraging is not only about what you pick but the experience – Immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the little things. The fresh air, birds chirping, a light breeze or the feel of soil beneath your feet

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Celebrate locality.

With an abundance of forage at your doorstep, why not start local?

 

The 10% rule.

Only take what you need (or 10% of what is available). This not only means that you leave plenty for other foragers, but also local wildlife. We want to enjoy our ecosystem not damage it. 

 

Leave room for regrowth.

Never uproot a plant so that it is always able to regrow after you have foraged from it.

 

Wash before consumption.

Always give your foraging finds a good wash before consuming, especially when picking on busy routes/path.

 

What better way to put your knowledge to use than try some of our home made recipes cultivated through passion and experience.