Sorrel, French or buckler-leaved (Rumex scutatus; Poly-gonaceae)

Description

A hardy perennial, rather sprawling plant, dying down every autumn; height of flowering stems to 1 ft (30 cm), with a similar spread. Leaves are rounded shielded shaped, about 1 ½ in. (4 cm) wide, slightly fleshy; insignificant greenish flowers appear in summer. Origin, Europe, North Africa, West Asia; introduced but sometimes naturalised in this country.

Uses

The rather bitter leaves are very good for soup, but otherwise should be used sparingly for flavouring as they are

very strong tasting. Also said to have diuretic qualities and to contain vitamin C.

History

Culpeper said that the leaves of all the sorrels were of ‘great use against scurvy if eaten in spring as salads’; the Greeks and Romans were convinced of their use in kidney troubles. Sorrels were a popular medical herb but parts of the plants contain oxalic acid, and the leaves should therefore be used sparingly.

Cultivation

Plant in spring or early autumn in moist, slightly heavy soil allowing 1 ft (30 cm) between the plants; remove the flowering stems to encourage leaf production. Divide in spring or sow seed in April, thinning when large enough to handle.

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