French Sorrel

(Rumex acetosa)

French sorrel, a popular culinary herb in the ancient world, and both a salad and vegetable plant in the West since the 14th century, is a bushy perennial that grows from 30 to 150 cm (1 to 5 feet) tall. Used in France’s kitchens since the beginning of that country’s recorded history, is a native of the mountains of southern and central Europe and southwest Asia. It’s leaves have a distinctive sharp, somewhat bitter, spinach-like flavor, with a tart lemon flavor as well, the result of their high oxalic acid content. French sorrel produces small, green flowers, which turn reddish-brown later. French sorrel may also be grown indoors for winter use. In traditional folk medicine, sorrel was used as an antiseptic. Because of its high vitamin C content, it was (correctly) believed to prevent scurvy. Roots and seeds were prescribed as a general tonic, and were used to treat diarrhea, a valid use because of the high tannin content. Sorrel was also used to cure scurvy, cleanse the blood, promote urine flow, and was used externally to cure skin disorders and promote a clear complexion. In addition to being rich in vitamin C, sorrels are high in vitamin A, and are a good source of both iron and fiber. Sorrel is often used in French cooking, and is the main ingredient of such culinary classics as sorrel soup and soupe aux herbes. Add sorrel to your favorite spinach and chard recipes, use it in omelets and soufflés, and in sauces, especially those accompanying, lamb, veal, pork, duck, goose, fish, and shellfish dishes. Sorrel is a tangy addition to early spring salads and mixed green salads. Whatever your recipe, use sorrel sparingly, tasting as you go, so as not to overpower your meal!

 

Sorrel Soup

Makes two 7-by-11-inch tarts

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb sorrel leaves cleaned (center stem removed)
  • ½ large onion sliced
  • ½ cup Half & Half *
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pint chicken broth**
  • *You can substitute heavy cream here if you want to
  • **You can substitute vegetable broth here if you want to make it vegetarian

Directions:

• Remove stems from Sorrel leaves, wash in salad spinner and set aside, reserving 2 leaves for garnish.
• Sauté finely chopped onion in butter until translucent.
• Heat broth but do not boil.
• Add sorrel leaves to onions and wilt.
• Add flour, stirring constantly until smooth.
• Continue stirring while adding hot broth.
• Simmer 5 minutes.
• Put through blender 1 cup at a time, or use hand held blender directly in sauce pan, using low speed.
• Return soup to low heat, do not allow to boil.
• Lightly beat egg yolks in a large cup, slowly stirring into them a little of the hot soup.
• Slowly pour the mixture back into the soup while stirring.
• Continue to stir while adding cream.
• Heat through, but do not boil.
Season to taste, Garnish with thin slices of reserved Sorrel leaves and rounds of toasted baguette.

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