I Tried Sorrel for the First Time, and Its Zing Won My Heart

published Jun 11, 2015
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(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

I first heard of sorrel years ago. But I’ve walked past it and reached over it numerous times at the farmers market; I’ve probably even seen it in Whole Foods. Yet for as curious as I am with new-to-me ingredients, I didn’t get around to trying it until just recently.

It only took one bite to realize that I’ve been really missing out on this bright and zingy green.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

What Is Sorrel?

Even though its leaves slightly resemble young leafy greens, sorrel is actually an herb.

Until recently I only knew of green sorrel, which is the most common variety that you’re likely to find. But at the farmers market last week I was thankful to be introduced to red-vein sorrel. The leaves are roughly the same shade of bright green, but as the name implies, this variety is laced with deep red veins.

Sorrel is a cool-weather herb that makes its way to markets starting in the spring.

Sorrel Tastes Brighter than Sunshine

I’ve seen sorrel described with words like tangy, acidic, sharp, lemony, and sour. Those are bold words, words that left me feeling a little nervous when offered my first taste of sorrel leaves at the farmers market. I was prepared for my mouth to be overwhelmed with sharp acidic flavors that would make me cringe. Instead, what I ate tasted like sunshine, only a hundred times brighter. It was pure delight.

Sorrel has a lemony zing that is tangy and mildly acidic, although it’s not the kind of flavor that will make your mouth pucker. For such a small leaf, it has a bold flavor, though definitely not overpowering. While some people enjoy eating it raw, others prefer it cooked because it tones down the flavor.

Red-vein sorrel tastes very similar to its green counterpart, but it’s slightly less tangy and much easier to eat raw.

How You Should Be Eating Sorrel

Treat sorrel as you would both a leafy green and an herb. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Again, red-vein sorrel has a milder flavor and is delicious eaten raw.

I love chopping a few sorrel leaves (both green and red-vein) and mixing it in with my salad. It adds a bright, lemony tangy that I really enjoy. The farmers market vendor mentioned that he enjoys adding a few leaves on the bottom of a tortilla when making a bean burrito. I tried this for myself and was totally smitten with the pairing.

Sorrel can also be made into a sauce served with fish or chicken; cooked into soup, tarts, and quiches; and sautéed with other leafy greens.

Have you ever tried sorrel? What’s your favorite way to eat it?