Last Updated on May 21, 2023
Start to grow an edible sorrel variety in your garden to enjoy a supply of tangy flavorful leaves for years to come.
Sorrel at glance
- Latin name – Rumex
- Easy to grow
- Likes sun to partial shade
- Propagation – by seeds and plant division
- Days to maturity when planted from seed – 60 days
- Uses: young leaves used in soups, sauces, and salads (check out our delicious sorrel soup recipe).
Best edible sorrel to grow in your garden
Three edible sorrel species that you most likely would want to grow are Rumex acetosa – garden sorrel, Rumex scutatus – French sorrel, and Rumex sanguineus – red veined sorrel.
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Types of Sorrel
There are three most popular sorrel types: garden (common), French, and red-veined.
Garden sorrel (common sorrel)
garden sorrel is the most widely cultivated and commonly consumed variety of sorrel. It has long up to 6″, bright green arrow-shaped leaves. This type of sorrel has tart lemony flavor. It tastes best cooked in soups or sauces served with fish or pork.
French sorrel has similar characteristics to garden sorrel but is known for its smaller, more bell-shaped, slender leaves. French sorrel is less acidic in comparison with garden sorre and has milder flavor. It leaves can be used raw for salads
If you want a splash of color in your salad – plant red-veined sorrel in your potager. This variety has striking red veins running through its green leaves. It adds an attractive visual element to dishes and has a slightly tangy taste.
Ways to grow sorrel
You can sow sorrel seeds in open ground, transplant it from seedlings started indoors, or by dividing an established sorrel plant.
Sorrel can grow outdoors, indoors on your windowsill or in Aerogarden, or in a pot on your patio. If you decide to grow sorrel in a pot – you will need to water it frequently, and preferably keep it in partial shade in summer time.
Sorrel plant is a perennial plant that grows in clumps and with time tends to overrun your garden if you let it self seed. That is why it is better to have a dedicated place for sorrel with some kind of barrier to stop its spreading. I got four stone scalloped edging sections (they can be curved or straight) from Lowe’s and made from them a perfect round bed just for sorrel.
You can grow sorrel indoor in an Aerogarden. Read my article on how to get the best Aerogarden for your needs.
Sorrel plants reach peak production in the second and third year after planting from seeds. After that yield starts to dwindle. After you have a plant for 5 years, it is better to start over by sowing seeds.
But if you have a dedicated place for sorrel in your garden and let it reseed itself – then each year you will be able to dig out the older clumps and allow the young ones to take over. This way you will have a steady supply of sorrel leaves for all your cooking needs for years to come.
When to sow sorrel seeds
Sorrel seeds can be sown in open ground in spring, summer and late autumn.
Spring planting is preferable, because you will be able to harvest sorrel the same year. Also soil in spring has a lot of moisture which sorrel likes.The seeds can be sown 2-3 weeks before last frost date for your zone.
Related reading: 5 easiest plants to grow in your spring garden for early harvest (read till the end to learn which perennials you can plant in your garden that will keep producing year after year).
If you plant sorrel in summer, most likely you will start to harvest it steadily next year. Also, summer planting will require more care – you will need to water sorrel frequently.
Planting sorrel on the edge of a raspberry patch will restrain the spread of raspberry bushes in the garden.
If you sow sorrel seeds in fall– it is better do it at the beginning of November to insure that the seeds will not sprout till spring, otherwise frost will kill them.
If you want to start grow sorrel indoors and transplant the seedling later – do it 6 -7 weeks before last frost. It takes time for sorrel seeds to germinate. But because sorrel seeds can be planted in open ground 2-3 weeks before average last frost date in spring, I would advice to sow seeds directly outdoors.
You can plant sorrel seeds 2-3″ apart (which will be hard to achieve, because sorrel seeds are so tiny ). Plant them in rows, with 1 foot distance between the rows in your traditional garden. Or just scatter seeds in 1′ x 1′ square in your square foot garden.
When sprouts emerge – thin the seedlings leaving 2″ between them, then in a couple weeks thin sorrel again – this time leaving 1 foot between plants.
Sow sorrel seeds 1/2” deep in spring and autumn. If you sow sorrel seeds in summer – plant them 3/4″ deep. Seeds planted in spring and summer time should be watered right after sowing, seeds planted in autumn should be left dry.
How to care for a sorrel plant
Sorrel is not a demanding plant. It tolerates cold well and is easy to grow when it gets established.
Sorrel likes sun to partial shade. It will grow well in soil rich with organic matter that is lightly acidic.
Sorrel requires frequent watering in summer. Water sorrel close to the roots to avoid mold development. And do not forget to keep beds free from weeds.
When the stalks that develop flowers and seeds appear in July, they should be cut back, unless you want to gather your own sorrel seeds. When you let stalks grow, the plant becomes less productive. Cutting the stalks will encourage the roots to produce more new shoots and provide a steady supply of young leaves.
Cut sorrel leaves from the plant before winter starts, approximately one month before soil gets frozen. Otherwise large sorrel leaves fall on the ground and a create dense, airtight layer that can kill a plant.
You can start picking green leaves early in spring for soup and salads. Be aware that sorrel leaves contains oxalic acid, so do not overuse them. It is better to consume young leaves because they are less acidic. Also when cooking with sorrel leaves – discard stems, use leaves only.
Check out my Sorrel Soup recipe
To have a fresh supply of young leaves – keep on cutting leaves, because cutting sorrel back rejuvenates growth. I usually like to cut sorrel leaves the first week from one clump, the next week – from second clump, the third week – from third clump, the fourth week – cut the leaves from the first clump again. This way you will have a steady supply of young mild leaves for your culinary needs.
You can start to pick sorrel from a new sorrel plant after it produced at least 4 leaves. Cut sorrel leaves with a knife or scissors at a height at least 2 inches above the ground.
Sorrel seeds ripen at mid-summer – early in the autumn. They should be black when you collect them. If you omit cutting stalks and leave seeds uncollected, they will fall to the ground and reseed.
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Final thoughts on growing sorrel
Sorrel is a prolific perennial plant that can be grown from seeds or replanted from divided clumps. It does not require much care, and when established – it will keep supplying you with leaves for soups and salads from early spring till mid-autumn.
Do your grow sorrel in your garden? Do you sow seeds each year or have a dedicated place for sorrel in the garden and allow it to reseed itself? Share in the comments.
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