Scientific Name: Rumex acetosa
Sheep's Sorrel is a slender, low-growing hardy perennial with thick arrow-shaped leaves.
In early summer it bears loose spikes of small green flowers that turn red as their seeds ripen. Sheep's Sorrel prefers moist soil in sun or light shade. The flowers must be cut off to maintain leaf production and to prevent it from seeding.
Water the plant regularly to keep the leaves juicy. Divide and replant every 5 years.
Sheep Sorrel can also be grown indoors in pots.
The name Sorrel comes from an old French word surelle that means sour.
It is said that Henry VIII and the Tudors of Great Britain considered Sheep's Sorrel to be one of the best English vegetables. In Lapland Sheep's Sorrel juice is used to curdle milk.
Sheep's Sorrel is native to the northern temperate and arctic regions. Today it is found in most temperate regions and grows wild in damp fields, waste land, open areas and meadows.
Harvesting, and parts used
Gather Sheep's Sorrel leaves when young as the older the plant, the more sharp the leaves taste.
Wash the leaves, shake off excess water, or pat dry in a cloth, and keep covered in the fridge.
Use fresh, or blanche and freeze for later. Dried Sheep's sorrel is seldom used as it has little flavour.
Sheep's Sorrel has a sharp, tangy flavour — use it sparingly. When adding chopped, fresh, young, leaves to salads, reduce vinegar or lemon juice in the dressing.
The leaves can be puréed and used in a stuffing for baked fish.
Sheep's Sorrel adds colour and flavour to mayonnaise and pancake batter.
Cook it like spinach, but change the cooking water once to reduce the sharpness that is drawn out into the water.
Use in vegetable soups, omelettes, lamb, chicken and beef casseroles, add to soft cheese dips, and use in sauces or gravy on pork.
Use them as a substitute for vine leaves for enfolding risotto mixtures.
Sheep's Sorrel leaves can tenderize meat — wrap them around steak, or chop them and add to the marinade
Recipe for a green sauce:
Wash a handful each of Sheep's Sorrel and lettuce leaves and half a handful of watercress. Chop together. Put into a pot with a tight fitting lid. Add an onion cut in half, and a little water. Steam the leaves until tender. Remove the onion. Put the leaves into a liquidiser, add one tablespoon olive oil, one tablespoon wine vinegar, & pepper. Whizz. Test for taste. Add salt only if necessary.
Rumex acetosa or Sheep's Sorrel is best known as an ingredient of "Essiac Tea", a native North- American Indian herbal remedy, which also includes Burdock, Chinese Rhubarb and Slippery Elm. This remedy was widely used last century. A Canadian nurse recommended the treatment for patients with breast cancer, and achieved remarkable results. It is sold under the name "Flor-essence" (rather expensive).
Sheep's Sorrel contains oxalates. People with a tendency to develop rheumatism, arthritis, gout and hyper-acidity or kidney stones should avoid it.
Otherwise, Sheep's Sorrel is an astringent, anthelmintic, cooling, blood-cleansing and detoxifying herb. It is often taken as a spring tonic tea.
The fresh juice is a diuretic and it is mildly laxative. It has the potential as a long-term treatment of disease in the gastrointestinal tract.
An infusion of the leaves can be used as a mouth wash for mouth ulcers, or to clean infected wounds.
Sheep's Sorrel leaves can be made into a poultice for acne pustules, boils, and other weepy skin complaints.
Use Sheep's Sorrel juice to bleach and remove rust, mould and ink stains from linen, wicker(cane) and silver ware.