Sorrel is a perennial herb in the buckwheat family (which also includes rhubarb). High in vitamin C, it was a common ingredient in medieval times, when it was eaten to prevent scurvy (citrus fruits weren’t widely available). The word sorrel is of Germanic origin, from sur, meaning sour. Its characteristic sourness comes from the presence of oxalic acid (which is also found in spinach).
There are two varieties of sorrel, both of which are edible: garden sorrel, which has pointy, arrow-shaped leaves and a bracingly tart flavor, and French sorrel which is milder, with rounded leaves.
Both an herb and a vegetable, sorrel is one of summer's most versatile greens. Its tart, lemony, almost fruity flavor lends a distinctive note to soups and sauces (much as basil and parsley do), and its delicate, spinach-like texture makes it a great salad green or sautéed side dish. Look for sorrel in farmers’ markets and supermarkets from late April through July, and then add its bright flavor to your summer cooking. The possibilities are plentiful—and delicious.
Choose bunches with smooth, tender, bright green leaves and soft, juicy-looking stems.
Sorrel adds a pleasantly tart note when combined with other greens in salads. Use it in place of parsley or basil for pesto, fold it into omelets, or add it to quiche. Sorrel also makes a delicious side dish for grilled fish or roasted chicken: Briefly sauté it in butter until just wilted (sorrel shrinks like crazy when cooked, so you’ll need a lot) and then sprinkle it with lemon zest and fleur de sel. Take care not to overcook it so it doesn’t lose its leafy texture and herbal aroma. If sorrel’s tang seems too assertive on its own, combine it with more mildly flavored greens like spinach or chard.
Sorrel’s lemony, clean flavor is a natural in creamy soups and in tart sauces for rich fish like salmon and arctic char. It pairs well with sweet ingredients like peas, honey, and fruit as well as with peppery extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs like mint, parsley, basil, and thyme.
To store, wrap sorrel in damp paper towels and refrigerate in a sealed plastic bag for up to three days.