Gardens without a patch of Garden sorrel are missing a culinary treat! Sorrel is an underused, tasty salad green with a tangy zing that is easy to grow.

As one of the first vegetables to pop up in the spring, it gives a garden instant green. And when gardeners are still coaching lettuce to become established, sorrel is already off and running. This is a perfect salad green for container crops on the back patio as it keeps producing providing attractive tasty nutritious greens all summer.

Garden sorrel, Rumex acetosa, is also known variously as common sorrel, broadleaf sorrel or sorrel. Sorrel plants have large, deep-veined, elongated, arrow-like tender leaves born on slender stems that arise from a whorled crown. Mature plants have a bunching growth habit.

Sorrel is in the Polygonaceae family, the same family as rhubarb with a taste reminiscent of rhubarb. Sorrel’s fresh, lemony, tangy and slightly acidic flavor adds a delightful punch to prepared salad mixes. It can be consumed fresh as a salad green or heated and prepared as a potherb. But be aware, when prepared as a potherb, leaves turn an olive greenish-brown and melt into a buttery-textured puree - an odd and rather disappointing phenomenon.

Sorrel is a good complement to fish and poultry dishes.  However prepared, sorrel adds zest to the palate.

As a hardy perennial, sorrel can be a staple in gardens. It overwinters without damage in our climate and continues to flourish in hot seasons.

Seed can be sown in March and into the summer months. Because established plants will bunch, place seeds 1 inch apart, thinning to 8 inches between plants and in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Sow ¼ inch deep. A few bunches will suffice for most gardens as it keeps producing and can be harvested until experiencing a hard freeze.

Entire plants can be harvested but in so doing, plantings need to be reseeded. For continued growth of fresh shoots, cut individual leaves right above the crown. Bunches will spread as plantings mature and bunches can be divided to establish new plantings.

Sorrel is packed with healthy nutrients and phytochemicals. In just 100 grams of raw leaves there is only 22 calories, 133 percent of the recommended daily requirement of Vitamin A and 80 percent of Vitamin C as well as high amounts of Vitamin B6, thiamin and niacin. Leaves are high in soluble fiber and minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc (nutrition-and-you.com).

I am a big fan of sorrel but have never seen it in a grocers or a farmer’s market, which means if you want to try this uncommon vegetable, you likely will have to grow your own.

Sources of Garden sorrel can be found at Johnny’s Seeds, (877) 564-6697; Park Seed (800)-845-3369; Eden Brothers, (800) 633-6338, Annie’s Heirloom Seeds (800) 313-9140; Harris seeds (800) 544-7938; Kitazawa Seed Co. (510) 595-1188.

Try it! You’ll like it!
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ELLEN PEFFLEY taught horticulture at the college level for 28 years, 25 of those at Texas Tech, during which time she developed two onion varieties. She is now the sole proprietor of From the Garden, a market garden farmette. You can email her at gardens@suddenlink.net.