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Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), also called common sorrel or garden 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 a slender herbaceous perennial plant about 60 centimetres (24 inches) high, with roots that run deep into the ground, as well as juicy stems and arrow-shaped (sagittate) leaves. The lower leaves are 7 to 15 centimetres (3 to 6 inches) in length with long petioles and a membranous ocrea formed of fused, sheathing stipules. The upper ones are sessile, and frequently become crimson. It has whorled spikes of reddish-green flowers, which bloom in early summer, becoming purplish. The species is dioecious, with stamens and pistils on different plants.
Rumex acetosa occurs in grassland habitats throughout Europe from the northern Mediterranean coast to the north of Scandinavia and in parts of Central Asia. It occurs as an introduced species in parts of New Zealand, Australia and North America. It can grow in poor soil.
- Rumex acetosa ssp. acetosa
- Rumex acetosa ssp. ambiguus
- Rumex acetosa ssp. arifolius
- Rumex acetosa ssp. hibernicus
- Rumex acetosa ssp. hirtulus
- Rumex acetosa ssp. vinealis
Common sorrel has been cultivated for centuries. The leaves are edible when young but toughen with age; they may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salad. The plant has a distinct sharp, sour taste. It contains oxalic acid, which can be poisonous in high quantities.
In northern Nigeria, sorrel is used in stews, usually with spinach. In some Hausa communities, it is steamed and made into salad using kuli-kuli (traditional roasted peanut cakes with oil extracted), salt, pepper, onion and tomatoes. In India, the leaves are used in soups or curries made with yellow lentils and peanuts. In Afghanistan, the leaves are coated in a wet batter and deep fried, then served as an appetizer or if in season during Ramadan, for breaking the fast.
Throughout eastern Europe, wild or garden sorrel is used to make sour soups, stewed with vegetables or herbs, meat or eggs. In rural Greece, it is used with spinach, leeks, and chard in spanakopita. In Albania, the leaves are simmered and served cold marinated in olive oil, or as an ingredient for filling byrek pies (byrek me lakra). In Armenia, the leaves are collected in spring, woven into braids, and dried for use during winter. The most common preparation is aveluk soup, where the leaves are rehydrated and rinsed to reduce bitterness, then stewed with onions, potatoes, walnuts, garlic and bulgur wheat or lentils, and sometimes sour plums.
Escalope de saumon à l'oseille (salmon escalope in sorrel sauce), invented in 1962 by the Troisgros brothers, is an emblematic dish of the French nouvelle cuisine. French cuisine traditionally cooks fish with sorrel because its acidity dissolves thin fish bones.
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