I was sitting eating a fabulous sorrel soup that my friend had made me and I wondered is sorrel easy to grow? I have found that the answer is yes!
Sorrel turns out to be pretty easy to grow and get some good harvests from too. The best part we are yet to enjoy is that it’s a hardy perennial and will return again for us this coming Spring. Meaning that we have a cut and come again reliable food source – one step closer to being self-sufficient. If you want our top tips to getting the best from your harvest come have a closer look
Growing your own herbs has to be one of the most rewarding ways to get fresh food into your diet. Seeing as sorrel is such a great flavour to add to Spring salads I wanted to get some started in my garden. I have to say so far I have been impressed with the results and I hope to show you how easy it is to grow now.
What are the health benefits of sorrel?
It is a lovely source of vitamin C and can be used very easily. eaten raw and straight from the garden is the best option for our family. But we are an organic family so leaves just need a quick wash of water. We use sorrel in our herb feeders for the chickens as well, to plump up their nutritional content!
One word of caution is that your herbs are only as healthy as the moment they are picked. Boiling the sorrel will reduce the vitamin content as it damages the enzymes and starts to break them down. Instead steam the leaves gently and eat them whilst they are still slightly crunchy – better yet eat them raw!
We use them for flavour as well so can shred the leaves before chucking on top of any and all dishes. A very sneaky way to get some much needed health into any old meal! From mid week pasta with pesto to an egg Florentine dish at the weekend. As you know we have chickens who are ex-battery hens, so those girls really know how to lay every day! So we have all sorts of egg based dishes that just shine with this perky herb!
Where should I plant Sorrel?
You will need to find a spot that is semi-shaded. Sorrel loves sunshine, as do all herbs and that process of photosynthesis really boosts the taste and vitamin content. However, too much sunshine can be harmful to the more tender leaves.
Finely rake soil before planting and ensure that there is adequate drainage. As it is an ideal cut and come again herb we love to put it into the raised bed by the back door. Thinking about ease of access is what makes the difference to actually using the food your grow. Adding sorrel to a dish will add a touch of lemony sunshine but it may be absolutely peeing it down when you come to collect it. Nothing worse than tramping outside in the rain to fetch a bit of a health kick!
When should I plant Sorrel?
You can start to plant directly outside from March to May without too many worries. I know that we do get the occasional late frost, but sometimes you just can’t avoid it! For a spectacular display as well as a tasty harvest you might like to try Mr Fothergill’s Sorrel Red Veined seeds. They are very true to their description and will grow with the red through them. Alternatively you can try a large French leaved variety like the ones below.
You will find that you have a long harvest period. From around June on wards in the first year of sowing you can expect to harvest a crop daily. By October you may want to let the leaves settle in for winter. In the second year forward you can expect tasty leaves ready from around April, depending on frosts.
They are just as easy as you could like for growing form seed and suit children. Wait until your soil is warmed up a bit, this could mean under glass. Keep the soil moist and with good drainage. Sow the seeds thinly and allow around quarter of an inch of seed compost to cover them over. Firm the compost in place and water.
When will germination happen?
This is why it is such a good herb for the kids to get involved with as it is around 7-14 days. This means we can check every day after school and before they are bored, the seeds have sprouted! Who am I kidding, this is not just about them!
When those delicate seedlings are strong enough to move, thin them further. Around 30cm between plants is a good distance, no need for perfection though! You will get a high yield from each plant so when you thin them out, do not get emotional about letting the weaker ones go!
Because of our gorgeous chickens we have some very well cultivated soil and can dig through some very good quality organic manure! If you have a raised bed you will need to keep that soil quality.
How to encourage new growth
Because the sorrel is in a raised bed, or even straight into the ground, you will need to nip out flowers. We love to let some of our sorrel ‘bolt’ as this produces some fantastic food for our bees and the wildlife living in our garden. You will see how beneficial it is to have these pollinators in your garden and if you have sorrel flowers it will encourage them all to visit.
The plant will spend all of it’s energy now making flowers. Those plants we allow to go to flower we will not harvest from again. So remember to keep on top of the harvest.
Can you grow sorrel in pots?
Yes it is possible but not favourable. This plant will want to fill any space and is not suitable for an indoor herb garden. We would not recommend trying to get this on a small balcony either.
We love to get the kids involved with all elements of the garden. One way to introduce the idea of new herbs can be getting them to make DIY herb Markers.
How would you describe the taste of Sorrel?
Kind of like a pleasantly lemony spinach. It is hardy so can be quite delicate to start with and as long as you pinch out the flowers it will continue to grow new leaves. Eating them fresh is easily done, but the kids find them a little too strong a flavour straight from the ground.
You can use it shredded and mixed in with other leaves as part of a salad. Or you can use it in any number of recipes and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has some predictably fabulous recipes! Anywhere that you may normally use spinach or rocket, think about sorrel as an alternative!
Just go careful with how much you eat as it has oxalic acid in high quantities and it just needs to be as a flavour enhancer. But all of these great recipes are hard to achieve as you cannot easily buy fresh sorrel on the high street.
Give it a go and let us know whether you are a sorrel convert!