Monday 23 May 2016

Spoonie Veg: Sorrel

Spoonie Veg rating: 1

Ok, my hands are up, I admit this isn't the most obvious first choice for an individual Spoonie Veg blogpost. Bear with me, and see if I cannot convince you that Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is one of the best and easiest veg to grow when you are low on spoons.

In my post introducing Spoonie Veg, I gave Sorrel a rating of 1. That being: 1-2 requires few spoons, 3-4 moderate spoons, and 5 hard, lots of spoons needed in order to grow that fruit, veg or herb.

Sorrel is one of my favourite vegetables. It's a hardy perennial vegetable, which means in hard winters it will still will come back the following spring, and in mild winters as the one past has been, you can continue to harvest, though less often, throughout. It can be used just like spinach or chard, but I think it's even yummier than those, with it's lemony tang. A lot of people forage for sorrel at this time of year, when it's new leaves are fresh. If you grow it yourself you can continue to harvest most, if not all, year long.

Sorrel is very easy to grow. It needs a bit of space as the roots can grow deeper into the soil and each year the patch can get larger. My current patch (see pics) has trebled its size in just one year. It is in light shade between October and March, so it doesn't need the sunniest spot in the garden. This one plant is enough for two people to regularly use it in cooking. Just three weeks ago I cut it almost back to just a few young stems, and you can see how much it has already grown.

Next year I will be able to divide this patch and create a second. On top of all this, I've found non-flowering sorrel to be pest-free. What a plant!

Sorrel can also be grown in containers, but as sorrel can have deep roots, it does need to be a large pot (either plastic or terracotta). With sorrel in the ground or raised beds, I don't worry about watering it unless we go through a really dry period. Container grown sorrel will need watering more often, so you need to plan a few spoons for that task too.

I purchased my young non-flowering sorrel (garden sorrel) plant from Alison Tindale of The Backyard Larder. Alison has written an excellent blogpost going into depth about the different types of perennial sorrels worth eating, which is well worth a read.

Sorrel tastes like a lemony spinach. I've come to prefer it to spinach as being a perennial there is no annual sowing, it just comes up every year with few spoons needed, maybe just give the patch a mulch each autumn. And I find the lemony tang delicious, and even the older leaves, if you cut out the stalks, still taste fresh and crunchy and haven't gone over into bitterness.

Now cooking sorrel, how many spoons does that take? To some degree it will depend on the recipe, but in general I feel it still fits into the 1-2 Spoonie Veg rating.

It's pretty easy to pick sorrel. I tend to grab a section of the clump and cut with my pruners, though you can use scissors too. A lot of gardeners will say they love to pick the veg and cook and eat it within a short space of time, to enjoy the food as fresh as possible. However, as Spoonies will know, you have to break down your tasks into micro-tasks in order to have the energy to do anything.

Sorrel and Mushroom Pasta

I find sorrel keeps it's freshness quite well, so I pick it earlier in the day. Preparing it is straight forward, but requires slightly more spoons as you need to give it a wash and cut off the older stalks. To healthy people this might not seem like much, but for Spoonies washing vegetables (or anything else for that matter) etc can be very tiring. So here is how I break down the tasks*:

1. Put the Sorrel in the sink and soak it for 30 minutes or so, and rest.
2. Shake it in the water to make sure you have got off any residual soil etc, then rest.
3. Tear off the stalks of the older leaves in the clump, then rest.
4. Next up is putting it in the salad spinner to get rid of the excess water. There, your sorrel is prepared and ready for cooking.

As sorrel can be used like spinach or chard, you can use it as a substitute for these in recipes. Specific sorrel recipes can be found searching the web. I've adapted Alison's Sorrel and Potato Gratin, swapping the onions for garlic (I'm allergic to onions), and sometimes adding some cheese on top towards the end of the bake. From a spoonie perspective, this dish is great as it is enough for two people, with a bit of salad, for 3 nights. It remains just as tasty each evening, just needing 2 minutes in the microwave to heat it up.

I've posted my Sorrel and Potato Gratin recipe, and I've also created my own recipe, Sorrel and Mushroom Pasta (above), which my partner and I think is rather divine.

So, have I convinced you that sorrel is a spoon-easy vegetable to grow and eat? How about give sorrel a go and let me know what you think.

*I won't explain the preparation process in every individual Spoonie Veg post, but I thought it was worth spelling it out here for the first time.

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I welcome your thoughts and comments. And if you blog about gardening with ME/a chronic illness, do link to this post in your blog and leave a comment below with a link to your post, so we can all find each other.

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