Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lettuce Eat Sorrel

Is Sorrel the New Green?

Sorrel, not exactly a household word or on your regular shopping list. Yet this mysterious vegetable, veiled in acidity, carries a treasure-trove of citrusy notes. Of European origin, the domestic varieties grow year round in our neck of the woods. In spring however, the arrival of its wild relative triggers a refreshed enthusiasm for this curious leafy green.

Wild Sorrel, also known as Sheep Sorrel, casts itself randomly in the nooks and crannies of my landscape, a common weed with a distict acidic bite. Growing up, my kids called it sour grass. They roamed the property foraging the largest leaves, pairing it with bronze fennel sandwiched between layers, gobbling it up like an amuse-bouche. Foodies before their time or just plain hungry? Mama was busy in the garden and they were left candy deprived, craving the tangy tartness of the wild. Fine memories indeed...

French Sorrel has come of age at Voss Gardens. A hearty perennial, its broad leaves have transformed odd plots into lush boutique-ish beds. Sorrel is symbiotic with parsley, and once established, requires little maintenance - some cutting back once a year. The rest of the time it stands at attention, ready to yield its goodness, small leaves for salads, bigger ones for sauces. Baby slugs live to nosh on the stuff, but no worries, the teeny holes they leave behind will disappear into purees.

Red Veined Sorrel, aka Blood Veined, is a newbie this year and mingles cordially into the pastoral color scheme. A brilliant Looker, recently popularized by chefs adventuring into unfamiliar cultivars, but certainly not as pungent as its cousins. It makes a bloody good visual splash in a salad or a bold dash of color in a presentation.The micro greens will party up a plate. The red hues do turn, so if you like pink puree and poopy looking soup its all yours.

For cooking, I'm sticking with Frenchy, aka Rumix Scutatus.The ancient Greeks and Romans valued Sorrel for promoting digestion and considered it a good complement to rich, fatty meals.  Rich in potassium and vitamins C and A, its slightly acidic taste makes it a perfect base for a sauce. Sorrel is best raw and pureed, to which any number of ingredients can be added. Recipes abound on Google. It has great affinity with eggs and fish, but can generally accompany a wide range of vittles. Fresh Sorrel leaves chopped into a tangy chiffonade can scatter about like parsley or cilantro.

Warning! This Sorrel Pesto can be addictive devoured in dips, sandwiches, pasta, and pizza.
Omit the nuts and cheese and Voila!- a stunning sauce to drizzle on smoked salmon or kick up a salad

Sorrel Pesto
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh sorrel, ribs removed
 1/3 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
 1/4 cup pine nuts
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/4 cup olive oil
 In a food processor or blender puree the sorrel, the parsley, the garlic,
 the parmesan, the pine nuts and the oil, transfer the pesto to a jar with
 a tight fitting lid and chill it, covered. The pesto keeps, covered and
 chilled, for 2 weeks. Makes about 1 cup.

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