Spice Rack: Sorrel

Discovering unusual spices and herbs, one jar at a time.

Sorrel, aka garden sorrel, French sorrel, round-leaved sorrel, sourgrass (England), rau thom (Vietnamese), hamtzitz (Hebrew)    

Description: The word sorrel is derivative from the Old French surele, which is derived from sur, or “sour”— an apt description of this fast-growing, leafy perennial herb with a strong, lemon-based tang. Growing in 4- to 6–inch tall clumps, the leaves are dark green, broad, and somewhat crinkly, and are connected to reddish stems that resemble thin stalks of rhubarb (indeed, sorrel is in the same family of flowering plants, Polygonaceae, as rhubarb). Sorrel has grown wild throughout Asia, Europe, and North America for centuries and is especially well-regarded in France.    

Flavor Profile: A quite tangy, acidic herb; some liken the taste to a tart, sour green apple. 

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Culinary Uses: Eaten raw or gently cooked, sorrel is best used in combination with other ingredients, to avoid its considerable pungency. It’s often used in omelets, quiches, salads, and cream soups or added to a stuffing for meat. The sourness of sorrel complements most types of fish, especially salmon and delicate white fish, like lemon sole, and shellfish.  

Stainless Steel Only: Just like spinach, sorrel contains oxalic acid and should not be cooked in cast-iron or aluminum cookware—the interaction between the metal and the oxalic acid results in an unpleasant metallic taste.  

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