Thursday, 2 January 2014

Sorrel soup

  Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is one of my favourite wild plants, its lemony-zing adds a punch to salads or is great just eaten on the go when out on a walk.  It grows abundantly along hedgerows and in fields all year round, so is a handy plant to have in your wild food arsenal.  Other types of wild sorrel to look out for in the UK are Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and various species of Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.).  The latter will take longer to pick in profusion, but has the same lemony taste.


Warning:

- Sorrel contains oxalic acid and calcium oxalate - these are quite poisonous if eaten in profusion and can cause a host of nasty side effects such as vomiting, muscular twitchings, convulsions, and there has even been a recorded case of 'death by Sorrel'.  Despite this, so long as you are reasonably healthy and don't gorge yourself on Sorrel too often, it is perfectly safe to eat - as Sorrel soup contains a reasonable amount of Sorrel, do not have it regularly and have only a moderate portion when you do!

- It could possibly be mistaken for the poisonous plant Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum), but once you know the identification features that tell the two apart, you should have no issue - see below.



This is not Sorrel, but the poisonous Lords and Ladies:

Young Lords and Ladies plant - poisonous

Curled pencil-like appearance of young Lords and Ladies leaves - Sorrel will never
look like this - it grows in rosettes from a central root system 

Lords and Ladies leaf structure - rounded backward-pointing lobes

How to tell Sorrel apart from Lords and Ladies:

1. Sorrel has pointy backward-pointing lobes, whereas Lords and Ladies has rounded
2. Sorrel has thicker, more succulent leaves, whereas Lords and Ladies has thinner, more limp leaves


One edible, one poisonous.  Edible Sorrel on the left and poisonous Lords and Ladies on the right



Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa):


Pointed lobes, not rounded - identification feature of Common Sorrel

Sorrel amongst the grass in a field







When cooked for too long, Sorrel has the unfortunate trait of turning brown and slimy, so the trick with this soup is to add the Sorrel leaves right at the end so that they don't overcook, maintaining that vibrant green colour.


Ingredients:

- ½ a carrier bag of Sorrel
- 1 Red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 or 4 medium potatoes
- ½ veg stock cube
- Single/double cream
- 1 egg
- Salt and Pepper


Sweat off the onion and garlic in a pan for 3 or 4 minutes.  Cut potato in to small chunks and add to the pan (if you prefer a thicker soup, add more potato).  Add boiling water (quantity will depend on how much soup you are making) and the stock cube to the pan and boil for 15 minutes until the potato is soft, take off heat.  Add the egg, a glug of cream, the Sorrel leaves and then blitz. Taste and season well.  Serve with a swirl of cream, chopped fresh Sorrel leaves and black pepper.  


This tangy, summery soup makes a great starter - I prefer it thin, gives it a more delicate feeling.





2 comments:

  1. Hi, I like your blog and its articles with your clear photos but am a little concerned you may be unduly putting people off sorrel. Im not aware of it containing calcium oxalate crystals, these are micoscopic skin piercing crystals found in hemlock as well as lords and ladies which give the characteristic needle stabbing sensation ( I accidentally ate hemlock once) Sorrel does contain oxalic acid which can form calcium oxalate crystals in the body. Could you let me know where you found out the info on calcium oxalate. Cheers Christopher Hope BSc Med hort

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    Replies
    1. Hi Christopher,

      Sorry for the late reply - have only just seen this message. I got that information from The River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook by John Wright - he states that oxalic acid removes calcium from the bloodstream, turning it into calcium oxalate. He even mentions that there is a recorded fatality in Spain from the over consumption of sorrel (half a kilo by somebody not in great health). I think so long as you don't base your diet on sorrel and don't eat it too regularly it's absolutely fine - you sometimes find it in supermarkets after all.

      See here for more information: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rumex+acetosa

      Thanks,

      Elliot

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