This summer is showing off as a great one for foraging. Already the flowering of blackberries, damsons and elders have been impressive and promise a good harvest in a month or two, But the perfect meadow growing conditions have also produced an excellent crop of Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella). If you haven’t enjoyed this field delicacy before, it’s fun to forage and a rewarding harvest.
Sheep sorrel is one of several wild sorrels you can find around the UK. They produce fresh leaves in the spring and in June/July send up a 30-45 cms high narrow flowering spike with tiny rust-coloured flowers above the grass meadow they inhabit. This serves as the perfect ID flag so the target harvest of tangy leaves at the bottom of the flowering spike can be located from 30-40 metres away in long grass.
Wander up to the spike, part the grass and at the base will be a rosette of small (5-10cms) long, arrow-head shaped, dark green blades of bliss.
You can’t easily confuse a sorrel leaf with anything else. Even a small docks that grow in the same environments are easy to distinguish. Sorrel leaf is smooth, dark-green, arrow-shaped, with tiny wings at the stalk-end, just like an arrow-head, but docks are crinkly surfaced and paler-green, without the wings at the end. But the final test is to nibble the leaf. Docks taste of not much (they are edible too, but boring), but your sorrel has that wonderful, sharp, acidic tang. Pick what you need and leave the rest for your next visit…….
The ‘crinkly’ leaves on the left are dock leaves, the smooth, flatter leaves beside the flowering spike on the right are sheep sorrel.
Looking for something to do with your freshly foraged sorrel? Try our Broad Bean and Sorrel Frittata below, or one of these delicious recipes:
Broad bean & Sorrel Frittata
Serves: 2 | Dietary: WF