I was chatting with Keith Dargatz at his booth just before last week's market. As you may know, Keith and Colin bring all kinds of potted plants with them to our market at their Dargatz Family Farm stall... large tomato plants, huge eggplants dangling with large white or deep purple fruits, pepper plants decorated with mini bell peppers or spicy chilies and all kinds of different herbs. This past week he had a plant that I didn't recognize, and I asked him what it was.
As it turns out it was sorrel.... a food that I haven't tasted in years, but one that I can almost instantly call up the taste of in my memory. Yup, it's one of those ah ha moment foods in my culinary background (if you've had one of those moments... those points in your life when you taste something that is so incredible, so unique and so delicious that it is marked indelibly on your tastebuds for the rest of your life, then you'll know what I mean)! You know how they say a smell can triggor a memory? Well for me, that happens with tastes too.
I have a distinct memory from my childhood about sorrel. We had a friend of the family who would come up and visit us from time to time. A very tall lady with a sharp British accent, she was a liver specialist medical doctor, a woman with a commanding voice and opinions to match, who never sugar coated things and who had an extremely bright, quick witted intelligence... in short, she was very intimidating to me and my sisters when we were young. She was born and raised in England where sorrel was a very popular herb. And one of the many things we came to love about her was that every time she would come to visit us at the farm, she would bring a pot of her sorrel soup... a green coloured, wonderfully creamy, distinctly lemony concoction that we all adored.
Sorrel is technically an herb, and it is high in Vitamin A and contains some calcium, vitamin C, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. It looks a little like spinach as it grows. It belongs to the buckwheat family. Its leaves have a unique arrowhead shape to them and are often used in salads as a accent, pureed in soups or used in sauces for fish. Depending on when you harvest sorrel, the leaves can be from 2" to 12" in length. The younger the leaf, the less of the oxalic acid it has in it, and the milder the taste. The larger the leaf, the more oxalic acid it has in it and the tarter and tangier the taste. When looking to purchase sorrel, as you would for any leafy green, look for vibrant & bright green leaves, that are not wilted, yellowed or pale in colour. And avoid leaves with woody stems.
One word of caution: some say that because of its high oxalic acid content, it should, like rhubarb, be avoided (or have limited use) by people with kidney or bladder stones.
rhubarb sorrel squares
I was sharing my amazement with Melisa, our market manager, that Keith actually had sorrel at our market, when she said she has had rhubarb crisp with sorrel in it and loved it. I never thought sorrel could be in a dessert... but with its incredibly lemony taste, why not!? This the recipe that she passes on from her mom.
4 cups rhubarb finely chopped
2 cups sorrel finely chopped
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups rolled oats
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup walnuts or other nuts chopped
1. Combine the rhubarb, sorrel, sugar, orange peel and vanilla in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook 4 minutes stirring frequently.
2. Dissolve cornstarch in water. Add to rhubarb mixture and cook until thickened stirring constantly. Set aside.
3. Mix together until crumbly.
4. Place about 3 ½ cups of the crumb mixture into a greased 9 x13 baking pas and press to make an even layer.
5. Pour in rhubarb/sorrel mixture and spread evenly.
6. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top.
7. Bake in a pre-heated oven @ 350º for 30-40 minutes. Cut into squares.
Recipe from Simply In Season
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee