Sorrel

Rumex acetosa - L.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Root; Seed.

Edible Uses: Curdling agent.

Leaves - raw or cooked. They make a thirst-quenching on their own, or can be added to salads, used as a potherb or pureed and used in soups. A delicious lemon-like flavour, liked by most people who try them, they can be rather overpowering in quantity and are more generally used as a flavouring in mixed salads. The leaves can also be dried for later use. The leaves can be available all through the winter, especially in mild weather or if a little protection is given to the plants. The leaves should be used sparingly in the diet, see the notes on toxicity above. Flowers - cooked as a vegetable or used as a garnish. Root - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and made into noodles. Seed - raw or cooked. Ground into a powder and mixed with other flours to make bread. The seed is easy to harvest, but is rather small and fiddly to use. The juice of the leaves can be used as a curdling agent for milks.

Medicinal Uses

Anthelmintic; Antiscorbutic; Astringent; Depurative; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Homeopathy; Laxative; Refrigerant; Stomachic.

The fresh or dried leaves are astringent, diuretic, laxative and refrigerant. They are used to make a cooling drink in the treatment of fevers and are especially useful in the treatment of scurvy. The leaf juice, mixed with fumitory, has been used as a cure for itchy skin and ringworm. An infusion of the root is astringent, diuretic and haemostatic. It has been used in the treatment of jaundice, gravel and kidney stones. Both the roots and the seeds have been used to stem haemorrhages. A paste of the root is applied to set dislocated bones. The plant is depurative and stomachic. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of spasms and skin ailments.

Other Uses

Cleanser; Dye; Polish.

Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots, they do not need a mordant. A grey-blue dye is obtained from the leaves and stems. An infusion of the stems is used as a polish for bamboo and wicker furniture and also for silver. The juice of the plant removes stains from linen and also ink stains (but not ball-point ink) from white material. It is sometimes sold as 'essential salt of lemon'.

Cultivation details

A very easily grown and tolerant plant, it succeeds in most soils, preferring a moist moderately fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position. Shade tolerant. Established plants are tolerant of considerable neglect, surviving even in dense weed growth. Sorrel has been used since ancient times as a food and medicinal plant. The plant stops producing leaves when it flowers in the summer, regrowing after the seed has set. Cutting down the flowering stem will encourage the growth of fresh young leaves. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Propagation

Seed - sow spring in situ. Leaves can be harvested within 8 weeks from sowing. Division in spring. Division is very simple at almost any time of the year, though the plants establish more rapidly in the spring. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, ensuring that there is at least one growth bud on each section of root. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

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