Notes from Herb Heaven

Sorrel

Sorrel is a herbaceous perennial with fleshy, pointed leaves shaped like an arrowhead. It grows to about 50 cm high. It likes rich, moist soil and partial shade. Sorrel can be sown from seed in spring but will take a long time to produce enough leaves to eat, so get some roots from a friend or buy them and set them in clumps about 30 cm apart in early spring or autumn.

Needs regular watering. Fertilise once a month with soluble fertiliser, high in nitrogen. Set stale beer traps among the plants to deal with snails and slugs. Leaf miners may attack the plant – remove affected leaves and destroy. Do not put affected leaves on the compost heap. Burn them if at all possible. Remove any flower buds and pick the leaves regularly to keep it in full flush. Pick the leaves from the outside, throughout the growing season.

Store freshly picked leaves in a plastic bag in the fridge. The leaves can also be frozen for up to six months. Medicinally, sorrel is used in the treatment of liver and kidney complaints. Do not drink for more than three days, one cup a day. Its high oxalic content can cause kidney damage if the sorrel is taken too often. The root is used as a diuretic and is a good tonic. Sorrel contains a lot of oxalic acid, so use the small leaves in salads, or make a delicious sorrel soup. A leaf or two between bread with a touch of lemon makes for a very different sandwich. Try chopping sorrel into scrambled eggs or an omelette for a piquant change. Chop a few young sorrel leaves into the pot with cabbage or spinach.


Lentil and Sorrel Soup

100g brown lentils
1.25 Litres water
1 onion, chopped
100g young sorrel leaves
25g/2 Tbs butter
A little stock
2 Tbs thick cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Put the lentils, onion and water into a pot,
cover and bring to the boil and gently cook 
for one and a half hours or until 
the lentils are soft. 

Wash the sorrel and cook with the 
butter until it is tender – 5 to 10 minutes.

Add to the lentils and blend to a smooth purée, 
thinning with a little stock if necessary. 

Reheat the soup and stir in the cream. 

Adjust the seasoning and enjoy.

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