Sorrel is a cool-season perennial often grown as an annual. Sorrel is often grown from root divisions. Sorrel can be grown from seed sown in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. Sorrel will be ready for harvest 60 days after sowing.
- Types of Sorrel
- Planting Sorrel
- Caring for Sorrel
- Harvesting and Storing Sorrel
- How to Grow Red Veined Sorrel
- All About Growing Sorrel
- How to Plant Sorrel
- Growing Sorrel
- Harvesting and Storage
- Propagating Sorrel
- Red-veined Sorrel Seeds
- Red Veined Sorrel
- Sorrel Weed Control: How To Control Yellow And Red Sorrel Weeds
- Sorrel Weeds: Toxic Weed or Herb?
- How to Control Sorrel
Types of Sorrel
Sorrel is grown for its tangy, slightly-sour tasting arrow-shaped leaves. There are five types of sorrels to choose from: garden sorrel, French sorrel, herb patience or spinach dock, spinach rhubarb, and common or sheep sorrel. All are good for eating.
- Garden sorrel (Rumex acestosa) grows about three feet tall and produces leaves that can be used fresh in salads.
- French sorrel (R. scutatus) grows 6 to 12 inches tall and has fiddle-shaped leaves used in salads.
- Herb patience or spinach dock (R. patientia) grows to four feet tall with leaves that can be used either fresh or cooked.
- Spinach rhubarb (R. abyssinicus) grows up to 8 feet tall; the leaves can be used like spinach and the stalks like rhubarb.
- Common or sheep sorrel (R. acetosella) is a wild plant whose leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach.
- Red-veined sorrel (R. sanguineus)
Yield. Plant 2 or 3 sorrel plants per household member. Sorrel is used as a salad green accent.
Red Veined sorrel also called Bloody sorrel (Rumex sanguineus)
Site. Plant sorrel in full sun. Sorrel grows best in well-worked, well-drained soil rich in organic material. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting. Sorrel prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
Planting time. Sorrels are very hardy. Sow sorrel in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of last frost in spring. In zones 5 and warmer, sorrel will grow as a perennial. Divide plants to renew them every 3 to 4 years.
Planting and spacing. Sow sorrel seed ½ inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart. Thin successful seedlings from 12 to 18 inches apart when plants are 6 to 8 weeks old. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Divide established sorrel in spring. Choose male plants–without flowers–for divisions to avoid reseeding.
Companion plants. Strawberries but not tall plants such as corn or pole beans.
Container growing. Sorrel grows well in a 6-inch pot. In larger containers, plant sorrel on 8-inch centers.
Garden sorrel (Rumex acestosa)
Caring for Sorrel
Water and feeding. Sorrel should be kept evenly moist. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and again at midseason.
Care. Sorrel is not demanding; it requires little extra care. Keep beds weed-free.
Pests. Aphids can attack sorrel. Control them by pinching out infested areas or hosing the aphids off the plants.
Diseases. Sorrel has no serious disease problems.
Harvesting and Storing Sorrel
Harvest. Pick fresh sorrel leaves when they are young and tender, just 4 or 5 inches tall. Harvest cut-and-come-again through the growing season. Leaves can be harvested as early as 60 days after sowing. Remove flowers before they mature to keep the plants producing new leaves into the fall.
Storing and preserving. Use sorrel fresh. Sorrel leaves will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks. Sorrel leaves can be frozen or dried and used as an herb; some flavor will be lost.
Varieties. See the list of types of sorrel above.
Common name. Garden sorrel, herb patience or spinach dock, French sorrel, spinach rhubarb
Botanical name. Rumex acetosa, Rumex patientia, Rumex scutatus, Rumex abyssinicus
How to Grow Red Veined Sorrel
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Red-veined sorrel, also known as red-veined or bloody dock, is a common garden plant with a flavor and appearance similar to that of lettuce. Growing red-veined sorrel in the home garden provides fresh, edible food that can be used in various recipes throughout the year. Sorrel is a beneficial plant to grow because it requires little targeted maintenance.
Prepare a garden bed for the red-veined sorrel. Grow sorrel in a well-drained, nutrient-rich soil where it will receive indirect sunlight throughout the day.
Add fertilizer to the soil bed where the bloody dock will grow. Fertilizer helps keep the soil healthy and filled with nutrients; healthier sorrel plants are better able to resist pest and disease problems.
Add pesticides to the garden as necessary to control insects like mites and aphids. Follow all directions on the pesticide containers for best results.
Water the red-veined sorrel regularly. Keep the soil around the plant moist. Do not saturate the soil completely or allow the sorrel to grow in standing water, as this can drown the roots of the red-veined sorrel and cause it to die off.
Irrigate the soil with a shovel if it begins to hold too much water; if a sorrel plant begins to wilt, this can be a sign that the soil is too moist.
Weed the garden bed regularly to prevent pest plants like dandelions from crowding out the red-veined sorrel. Remove and dispose of pest plants with a trowel or shovel.
Harvest the sorrel leaves when they reach maturity or slightly before the plant is full grown to get the best flavor from the red-veined sorrel.
All About Growing Sorrel
Blood sorrel (R. sanguineus), also called red sorrel, makes a beautiful ornamental to grow in partial shade, but the leaves are only edible when very young. Some tangy mesclun mixtures include red sorrel.
How to Plant Sorrel
Sorrel can be grown from seeds started indoors in early spring, or you can purchase a plant from a nursery. After established, one or two plants will grow into a patch that will produce enough sorrel for most households. Set out plants in spring, around your last frost date, in any fertile, well drained soil. Sorrel plants tolerate light frosts.
For recommended planting dates for your local climate — and to design your garden beds — try our Vegetable Garden Planner.
Allow seedlings of garden sorrel or French sorrel a full season to establish themselves in the garden. Remove weeds that crowd your growing sorrel plants.
Except for the ‘Profusion’ variety, sorrel plants send up flowering spikes which eventually adorn themselves with thousands of dangling flat seeds. Clip off the seed heads while they are still green, because sorrel can become weedy in many climates. Sorrel is closely related to the weed called yellow dock (R. crispus) and shares its talent for reseeding.
Harvesting and Storage
Sorrel is usually eaten raw in salads or on sandwiches, or cooked into creamy sorrel soup. In any dish, a little sorrel goes a long way. Only one or two leaves, slipped into a sandwich or sliced into thin ribbons and tossed into a salad, are plenty. The citrusy, sour tang of sorrel leaves make them a great accent herb for Thai-inspired dishes. If you are hooked on sorrel soup, you can steam sorrel leaves and form them into cigar-shaped rolls before freezing them.
Sorrel can be propagated from seed started indoors under lights in late winter, or you can cut away rooted crowns from the outside of established plants and move them to a new location immediately.
Garden sorrel likes to grow into a small patch of several plants. To keep production of early spring leaves as high as possible, thin back to the healthiest plants in early fall. Every four to five years, lift and replant vigorous young crowns to a new spot in early spring.
For more information about growing sorrel, see Zesty Sorrel and Grow Sorrel, A Versatile Lemony Green. Plus, for growing advice for many more garden crops, check out our complete Crops at a Glance Guide.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Red-veined Sorrel Seeds
Does Park sell GMO’s or treated seeds?
It is important for our customers to know that Park Seed does not sell GMO or treated seed. We do buy a small amount of traditional hybrid seed from Seminis, a division of Monsanto Co., but that is all we purchase from them.
What are the differences between organic, heirloom, and hybrid seed?
Basically, organic seeds are seeds that are produced without the use and exposure to artificial/chemical fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and other chemicals. They have to be grown, harvested, stored, and handled under very strict organic rules and procedures. All of our organic seeds are USDA 100% certified organic through Clemson University and the certificate has to be renewed yearly.
Heirloom Seeds are open-pollinated — they are not hybrids. You can gather and save heirloom seed from year to year and they will grow true to type every year, so they can be passed down through generations. To be considered an heirloom, a variety would have to be at least from the 1940’s and 3 generations old (many varieties are much older — some 100 years or more!).
Hybrid seed are the product of cross-pollination between 2 different parent plants, resulting in a new plant/seed that is different from the parents. Unlike Heirloom seed, hybrid seed need to be re-purchased new every year (and not saved). They usually will not grow true to type if you save them, but will revert to one of the parents they were crossed with and most likely look/taste different in some way.
What are pelleted seeds? Why do you use them? How do I handle/sow them?
Extremely small seed such as Petunias and Pentas are shipped as pelleted seed to make them easier to handle and sow. Pelleted seed are coated, usually with clay, to make them larger in size. After sowing, the coating will dissolve when wet and the seed will germinate. Pelleted seeds are shipped in vials placed inside seed packets, which protects them from being crushed. When sowing, be certain to use thoroughly moistened soil, to be sure that the clay coating absorbs enough moisture to dissolve. For sowing pelleted Petunia seeds, place the seeds directly on the soil surface and do not cover with soil, as light aids in the germination. What is ideal temperature to germinate most seeds?
The ideal temperature to germinate most seeds is approximately 70 degrees F; give or take 1-2 degrees either way. This would be a good germination temperature for most flower and vegetable seeds and would be the most practical and feasible temperatures achieved for gardeners starting seeds in the home. You will notice for some seeds that it is recommended to use alternating day (warmer), night (cooler), temperatures, which is fine if one can provide such conditions. But most people are unable to provide those temperatures in a home setting, so just use the overall 70 degree F recommendation and the seeds should germinate well. How long should grow lights be kept on per day and how close to the plants should the light be kept?
For germination and seedling/plant growth, you want to simulate the natural day-night cycles, and as a general rule, grow lights should be on 8-12 hours per day and off at night. You can vary this timing, as some seeds such as tomato, pepper, petunia, impatiens, and others, benefit from 14-17 hours of light per day (and the remainder of the 24 hour period in darkness). The most common grow lights used are fluorescent; using cool white, warm white, and wide-spectrum fluorescent tubes. These lights work well for germination and for growing plants up to a transplantable size. Fluorescent lights should be kept close though, 3-6 inches above the soil or the growing plants, adjusting the height as the plants grow. How long will seeds keep in storage?
Park Seed stores seed in a special temperature- and humidity-controlled storage facility, which keeps seeds in excellent condition. Our seeds should be good for at least 1-2 years on average. Seed viability and storage time will vary depending on the seed item; some will keep a shorter time and some will keep longer. Seeds should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. A basement will do (if not too humid), or a cool, dark room or closet. We recommend the best way to extend seed storage life is to store them in something air tight, such as a plastic zipper storage bag or canning jar, and place it in the refrigerator. This will extend the life of seeds for many years. What is the best way to store seeds over a longer time period?
We recommend the best way to extend seed storage life is to store seeds in something air tight, such as a plastic zipper storage bag or canning jar, and place it in the refrigerator. This will extend the life of seeds for many years. What depth should I sow various seeds?
When sowing seed outdoors, we recommend a maximum planting depth of 4X the width of the seed. When sowing seed indoors, the planting depth can be less, depending on the seed being sown, so it is always best to check specific directions. Here are some general guidelines concerning planting depth in relation to seed size: Tiny, dust-like seeds need to be sown on the surface of the growing medium or soil, uncovered, as they need light to germinate. The planting depth for small seed can be anywhere from barely covering, to 1/8-inch deep, to possibly 1/4-inch deep, depending on the recommendation. Medium seed should be planted at 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep, depending on the recommendation. Larger seeds can be planted 1-inch or deeper, depending on the recommendation.
Imagine a trendy green that can grow on your windowsill, has a super-long season, and is the missing piece to unlocking your greatest spring fish, and you’ve pretty much come up with sorrel. This flavorful little leaf brightens everything it touches, yet it remains an unknown quantity to most home cooks. So, below, a sorrel introduction.
What is sorrel?
Sorrel is a small edible green plant from the Polygonaceae family, which also includes buckwheat and rhubarb. The French translation of sour (“sorrel”) is spot-on: These leaves have an intense lemony tang. In Vietnamese cuisine, sorrel leaves are known as rau thom (fresh herb), and it’s called gowkemeat in Scotland. For our purposes, though, let’s just call it sorrel.
There are three major varieties to know: broad leaf, French, and red-veined sorrel. Broad leaf sorrel has slender, arrow-shaped leaves. French or Buckler leaf sorrel has small, bell-shaped leaves, while red-veined sorrel has a slender, tapered leaf with the namesake screaming red veins throughout.
Photo by When is Sorrel Season?
Sorrel starts showing up in the spring and gets progressively more bitter as the months progress. Leaves will constantly grow from the plant’s center from early spring to late fall, making it a green that’s almost always in season.
It’s an incredibly easy plant to grow—other than occasional weeding and harvesting, sorrel doesn’t need much babysitting in the soil. It’s a perennial, fast-growing, and winter-resistant green, meaning if you’re looking at a spring garden, you should stock up on sorrel.
How Do I Use It?
Short leaves: raw. Large leaves: cooked
That’s the very simplified-but-foolproof way to think sorrel. The younger leaves can be a lot more tender and don’t hold up well in cooking, so use them as garnishes to spring dishes or in uncooked dishes.
Like many other spring greens (like broccoli rabe or stinging neetles), sorrel has a pronounced flavor. You wouldn’t want to eat just a salad of sorrel, so mix young leaves with milder lettuces. Blanching also helps tone down the bitterness.
Think of the way a zippy, acidic white wine cuts through a fatty or oily fish. Sorrel—with plenty of lemony crunch—works a similar magic. Use it in purees, sauces, and oils alongside heartier mains.
Some chefs like David Kinch even use it in sweet applications like the dark chocolate and sorrel ice cream at Manresa in Los Gatos, California.
What are sorrel’s health benefits/risks?
Sorrel is loaded with vitamins A and C, which are great for your immune system. Besides boosting up your fish entree, the leafy green also gives a good boost for your heart health. Its high potassium content can play a welcome role in lowering your blood pressure, and it increases blood circulation.
It also contains oxalic acid, a naturally occurring compound found in greens like spinach, kale, and sorrel. Oxalic acid is lethal in high enough doses, but unless you’re putting away almost 10 pounds of spinach on a daily basis, you don’t need to worry. Chances are if you need to avoid these foods, your doctor has already told you so. And if it’s any consolation, combining calcium-rich dairy products with oxalic acid reduces the minor impact.
This is great and everything, but I can’t find sorrel anywhere. Is there any kind of substitute?
If you’re not feeling up to growing your own or can’t find sorrel on sale anywhere, there are plenty of substitutes. To mimic the bitter flavors of sorrel, use kale with the stems removed—it’ll boost up the flavor of a pesto.
Red Veined Sorrel
Red Veined Sorrel
55 days. Add Red Veined Sorrel to your garden and you’ll be impressed by large, glossy, bright-green leaves, painted by bold maroon veins running throughout the plant. It’s a winter hardy perennial and very easy to grow. Great for edible and permaculture landscapes. Smaller leaves add a distinct color and texture to your salads along with the same sharp, tangy flavor of regular sorrel. Larger leaves can be chopped small and prepared like most cooking greens. High in oxalic acid content so eat in moderation. NN
Growing Instructions (for USDA Zone 5b):
Start seeds inside at a temp of 68°. Water seed starting soil before sowing seeds. Seeds need light to germinate – sow seeds on soil surface and expose them to light (either artificial light or sunlight). Keep seeds moist until germination by watering them with a mist (a handheld sprayer works well for this). Cover seed flat with a dome to keep moisture in (but you should air it out 1x per day for 20 minutes to prevent fungal growth). Days to germination: 10-18. Transplant outside in early May. Or, you can sow seeds directly outside May 15th on the soil surface, keeping them moist until germination. Plants are hardy to zone 6.
Harvest leaves as desired. Plants contain high amounts of oxalic acid so only eat small quantities of Red Veined Sorrel.
Seed Saving Instructions (for gardeners):
Plants are wind pollinated. They can self-pollinate. Plants will not cross with other species of sorrel. Collect seeds July-Sept as they mature. Mature seeds will have turned from white/tan to red/brown.
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Sorrel Weed Control: How To Control Yellow And Red Sorrel Weeds
Where soil has poor drainage and low nitrogen, you will undoubtedly find sorrel weeds (Rumex spp). This plant is also known as sheep, horse, cow, field or mountain sorrel, and even sour dock. Native to Europe, this unwelcomed perennial summer weed spreads by underground rhizomes. Let’s learn more about getting rid of sorrel.
Sorrel Weeds: Toxic Weed or Herb?
Stems can grow up to 2 feet tall and bear arrowhead shaped leaves. Female and male flowers bloom on separate plants with male flowers being yellow-orange and female flowers are reddish with three-angle fruits.
The leaves of this bitter plant, when eaten in large quantities, can cause death amongst livestock but are considered safe for human consumption when eaten raw or boiled. For this reason, many people actually choose to grow sorrel weeds in their herb garden. However, it is a good idea to know about getting rid of sorrel in areas where livestock will be present.
How to Control Sorrel
Obviously, people who have large pastures with acidic soil and grazing livestock are interested in sorrel weed control. Controlling sorrel in pastures or crops requires changing over to annual crops that can handle some tillage.
Infestations can also be managed by adopting a 4-year rotation as follows:
- Plant a clean-cultivated crop the first year
- Plant a grain crop the next year
- Plant a cover crop the 3rd year
- Plant a pasture or perennial crop the final year
Improving soil structure by liming and fertilizing encourages the growth of other plants that hopefully will crowd out sorrel weeds.
Chemical treatment can be used in non-crop areas, and there are several selective herbicides that are effective.
In a small garden, sorrel weed control may only require digging up the plant with a sharp garden shovel, making sure to get all of the rhizomes. Getting rid of sorrel weed plants is not that difficult, and if you know someone that enjoys the weed, you can simply allow him or her to pull them up and add the plants to the herb garden.