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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Sorrel

Sorrel1

Sorrel is a cool-season perennial often grown as an annual. Sorrel is often grown from root divisions. Sorrel can be grown from seed sown in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. Sorrel will be ready for harvest 60 days after sowing.

Here is your complete guide to growing sorrel.

Types of Sorrel

Sorrel is grown for its tangy, slightly-sour tasting arrow-shaped leaves. There are five types of sorrels to choose from: garden sorrel, French sorrel, herb patience or spinach dock, spinach rhubarb, and common or sheep sorrel. All are good for eating.

  • Garden sorrel (Rumex acestosa) grows about three feet tall and produces leaves that can be used fresh in salads.
  • French sorrel (R. scutatus) grows 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) tall and has fiddle-shaped leaves used in salads.
  • Herb patience or spinach dock (R. patientia) grows to four feet tall with leaves that can be used either fresh or cooked.
  • Spinach rhubarb (R. abyssinicus) grows up to 8 feet (2.4m) tall; the leaves can be used like spinach and the stalks like rhubarb.
  • Common or sheep sorrel (R. acetosella) is a wild plant whose leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach.
  • Red-veined sorrel (R. sanguineus)

Yield. Plant 2 or 3 sorrel plants per household member. Sorrel is used as a salad green accent.

Sorrel in garden
Red Veined sorrel also called Bloody sorrel (Rumex sanguineus)

Where to Plant Sorrel

  • Plant sorrel in full sun.
  • Sorrel grows best in well-worked, well-drained soil rich in organic material.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds before planting.
  • Sorrel prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.

When to Planting Sorrel

  • Sorrels are very hardy. Sow sorrel in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last frost in spring.
  • In zones 5 and warmer, sorrel will grow as a perennial.
  • Divide plants to renew them every 3 to 4 years.

Planting and Spacing

  • Sorrel Sow sorrel seed ½ inch (12mm) deep and 2 to 3 inches (2.5-7cm) apart.
  • Thin successful seedlings from 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) apart when plants are 6 to 8 weeks old.
  • Space rows 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart.
  • Divide established sorrel in spring. Choose male plants–without flowers–for divisions to avoid reseeding.

Sorrel Companion Plants

  • Grow sorrel with strawberries but not tall plants such as corn or pole beans.

Container Growing Sorrel

  • Sorrel grows well in a 6-inch (15cm) pot. In larger containers, plant sorrel on 8-inch (20cm) centers.
Sorrel in garden
Garden sorrel (Rumex acestosa)

Watering and Feeding Sorrel

  • Sorrel should be kept evenly moist.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and again at midseason.

Sorrell Care and Maintenance

  • Sorrel is not demanding; it requires little extra care.
  • Keep sorrel planting beds weed-free.

Sorrel Pests and Diseases

  • Aphids can attack sorrel. Control them by pinching out infested areas or hosing the aphids off the plants.
  • Sorrel has no serious disease problems.

How to Harvest Sorrel

  • Pick fresh sorrel leaves when they are young and tender, just 4 or 5 inches (10-12cm) tall.
  • Harvest cut-and-come-again through the growing season. Leaves can be harvested as early as 60 days after sowing.
  • Remove flowers before they mature to keep the plants producing new leaves into the fall.

Storing and Preserving Sorrel

  • Use sorrel fresh. Sorrel leaves will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Sorrel leaves can be frozen or dried and used as an herb; some flavor will be lost.

Sorrel Varieties to Grow

  • See the list of types of sorrel above.

About Sorrel

  • Common name. Garden sorrel, herb patience or spinach dock, French sorrel, spinach rhubarb
  • Botanical name. Rumex acetosa, Rumex patientia, Rumex scutatus, Rumex abyssinicus
  • Origin. Europe

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

Comments

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  1. stop cutting off your sorrel flowerings let them grow. the fruit is used to make one of the best drinks in the world. youtube the jamaican recipe

  2. There is no sorrel in your sour soup. The base for the soup is fermented flour with garlic and some other stuff. It’s called zurek. Sorrel makes great sour soup as well very popular in Poland. I love it, light and refreshing.

  3. Hi Steve, I’m interested to learn about growing sorel commercially for the herbal industry. I am waiting for Autumn here in NZ before dividing my wild grown plants. Would you expect I could harvest from newly divided plants by the Spring or would you advise letting them establish before harvesting another season? Thanks

    • If the winter is mild where you are, try to get the plants into the ground in autumn while the soil is still warm. This will allow the roots to get a foothold before days grow short. Plant growth will slow as the days grow shorter, but if the roots have gotten a head start this autumn, they will finish establishing themselves in spring and you should be able to harvest cut-and-come-again by the end of spring. Be careful not to overharvest leaves the first season while the plant is establishing itself.

  4. If I grew red veined sorrel hydroponically, providing it organic nutrients and lighting year round, how long would I be able to harvest from it before needing to replant? Or could I harvest from it indefinitely?

    • Sorrel is a perennial. If you harvest cut-and-come-again and do not remove new growth tips, the plant should live for 2 to 3 years.

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