Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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sorrel the name of a number of plants of the genus Rumex. The sour taste of their edible leaves is responsible for the name ‘sorrel’, and all other European names for the plants also mean ‘sour’. wood sorrel is not closely related, though its leaves have a similar flavour.

Sorrels grow wild throughout Europe and Asia. There are a few native American kinds, but the common species from the Old World are now naturalized. The main European wild species are common sorrel, Rumex acetosa; and round-leafed or French sorrel, R. scutatus. These have been eaten as green vegetables since ancient times. Even in the 20th century English schoolchildren would eat ‘sour dabs’, sorrel picked from the wild.