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.
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 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 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.
Site. 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.
Planting time. Sorrels are very hardy. Sow sorrel in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of 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. Sow sorrel seed ½ inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart. Thin successful seedlings from 12 to 18 inches apart when plants are 6 to 8 weeks old. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Divide established sorrel in spring. Choose male plants–without flowers–for divisions to avoid reseeding.
Companion plants. Strawberries but not tall plants such as corn or pole beans.
Container growing. Sorrel grows well in a 6-inch pot. In larger containers, plant sorrel on 8-inch centers.
Caring for Sorrel
Water and feeding. Sorrel should be kept evenly moist. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and again at midseason.
Care. Sorrel is not demanding; it requires little extra care. Keep beds weed-free.
Pests. Aphids can attack sorrel. Control them by pinching out infested areas or hosing the aphids off the plants.
Diseases. Sorrel has no serious disease problems.
Harvesting and Storing Sorrel
Harvest. Pick fresh sorrel leaves when they are young and tender, just 4 or 5 inches 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. 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.
Varieties. See the list of types of sorrel above.
Common name. Garden sorrel, herb patience or spinach dock, French sorrel, spinach rhubarb
Botanical name. Rumex acetosa, Rumex patientia, Rumex scutatus, Rumex abyssinicus