how to grow sorrel

Sorrel is an aromatic and herbaceous vegetable plant and condiment with an acid taste that some dislike but others like very much, describing its taste as spicy and bitter. Sorrel is a perennial plant of the Polyignaceae family.

 It forms a rosette of oval, green and tender leaves with refreshing virtues. Common in the fields, sorrel has small reddish-green flowers in summer, gathered in long vertical groups that reach 1 m in height. Learn how to grow sorrel.

Which location does the sorrel prefer?

The growth of sorrel in the garden depends on whether it grows in the sun or partial shade that it appreciates Too shady locations only produce poorly growing plants. 

The subsoil should offer the sorrel roots a medium-heavy and deep soil, and the pH value should be below 6 if possible. In summer dry periods, enough water should be poured so that the soil does not dry out too much.

Sorrel planting guide

Cut young garden sorrel leaves in the afternoon when sun exposure has removed some of their moisture. This speeds up the drying process.

Wash the garden sorrel to remove dirt and pest eggs. Dry the leaves with a towel. Hang the leaves in small batches, such as four to six leaves with twine or wire wrapped around their stems. Hooks or "S" hooks are useful for hanging.

Sorrel can easily go bad because it can retain moisture and return moisture to leaves from the atmosphere:

It will rot in a kitchen, basement, pantry, or other damp area. Drying time varies depending on the climate, the age of the leaves, and the interior temperature. A warm, dark place with good air circulation is the best place to dry it.

Covering sorrel with a paper bag can help keep it green if you don't have a dark place to dry herbs. Although quick drying can lead to loss of oils, it avoids the risk of mold.

For quick drying, preheat an oven to less than 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Schenectady County Cornell University Cooperative Extension recommends spreading sorrel leaves on cookie sheets and drying in an open oven for less than 15 minutes.

How to sow sorrel?

How to sow sorrel

If you are planting in the field, choose a sheltered space in your vegetable garden or herb garden, so that the sorrel does not suffer from the heat and scorching sun that would make it bitter.

Row planting is done in shallow furrows 25-30cm apart, depositing a seed every 2-3cm at a depth of 1cm, lightly filling the soil with soil to cover the seeds, and watering with a light rain. The soil should remain cool and moist until it rises.

Thin to 20-25cm when the seedlings are in the 4-5 leaf stage or transplant the seedlings from the nursery to their final place in the garden, maintaining the same distance between each plant for further development.

Water the sorrel as soon as the soil dries so it doesn't taste too acidic. Remove weeds around the plants to avoid overrun.

Step 1: Choose a place with full sun. Sorrel grows best in full sun, so choose a planting site that receives at least six hours of sun daily.

Step 2: Select the variety of sorrel you want to grow.

Step 3: Test your chosen seedbed soil to make sure it is suitable for sorrel.

Step 4: This plant really resists frost, itself it can be planted a few weeks before the last frost of the season is generated. Work what is the garden bed and sow properly what are the sorrel seeds, this do it in holes of 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) deep

Step 5:  Thin out the seedlings. Once they sprout, take them out between them so that the strongest seedlings are spaced 5 to 6 inches (12.5 to 15 cm) apart.

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Light and weather

Hibiscus sorrel requires long, hot summers for fruits to ripen and the plant is sensitive to frost. An early frost can prevent a harvest. 

Precipitation is important, as flowers thrive in areas that receive at least 72 inches of rain per growing season. Hibiscus sorrel grows best in loamy and sandy soils. 

The growing conditions needed are similar to those for tomatoes and the plants need 18 to 24 inches of space from each other in rows. The plant begins to produce flowers as the days get shorter during the growing season.

First to come in spring, last to come out in fall, sorrel is a hardy perennial that grows in cool temperatures.

Cut your leaves to eat in spring and keep cutting throughout the season as long as you leave a quarter of the growth behind, so there is something to nourish the roots.

As the weather warms up, the sorrel will produce fewer leaves and change to flower stalks. Unless you want to save seeds, these must be cut.

The plant will go almost dormant in the summer and then generate new growth when the weather cools. Again, you can safely cut about three-quarters of it.

Irrigation required for sorrel plants

Keep sorrel very moist. Chestnut needs a lot of water throughout the growing season. Test the soil to see if it needs water by inserting your finger into the soil near the roots of the sorrel. If it feels dry, go and water the sorrel.

Water close to the roots, rather than sprinkling water on the leaves. This will prevent the leaves from snagging and rotting.

Water in the morning, when the sun has time to dry the plants before dark. If you water too late in the day, the plants will be prone to mold at night.

how to grow sorrel
Hibiscus sorrel requires long, hot summers for fruits to ripen and the plant is sensitive to frost.

Compost and fertilizers

Annoyed by pests or diseases. A mid-spring application of a balanced fertilizer (or a midwinter mulch of well-rotted manure) is all the food you need. As a plant, it is a model of robustness, but the leaves are another story

How to grow sorrel from Seeds 

Plant sorrel seeds directly in the garden two weeks before the first average frost date in fall or after all danger of frost has passed in the spring.

Sorrel thrives in any type of soil, whether in full sun or partial shade.

Scatter the seeds slightly in the row and cover the seeds with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. Don't worry about space as you can thin the sorrel when the seedlings are about 2 inches tall.

To thin the plants, leave the strongest plants and remove the weaker ones. Leave 4 inches between each plant if you intend to use the young leaves in salads. Allow 8-10 inches if you want to grow full-size plants.

Propagation and sowing

Hibiscus sorrel is usually propagated by seed, but you can also propagate the plant from cuttings. Propagation of cuttings often results in shorter plants and fewer calyces.

The plant can be re-seeded, so it has the potential to become invasive in some areas. You can start the seeds indoors and transplant the seedlings when they grow to about 4 inches tall, or sow the seeds directly into the growing area, sowing in hills with three to six seeds per hill.

Invasive potential

Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), also known as red sorrel, is considered to be moderately invasive in some areas, especially swamps, grasslands, and meadows.

Curly dyke (Rumex crispus) is also a weedy plant in some areas. The seeds are carried by the wind and because the tap root is so long, the plants are difficult to eradicate.

Despite its rambunctious character , the curly dock is valued for its color. The leaves are often dried for use in flower arrangements or to make dyes for textile projects.


Cutting the sorrel bed: Sorrel beds tend to be very bad, so be diligent throughout the growing season.

Avoid using a herbicide, as it will harm both sorrel and weeds.

Examine the tips and cut them off before they mature while the seed heads are still green.

Sorrel also bolts (go to seed) in hot weather unless shaded.

 Sorrel Pests and diseases

Sorrel Pests and diseases

For mature soils, you can spray the aphids with a continuous stream of water from the hose.


For the smaller varieties of sorrel, the main concern with rust is that it uses sorrel as a host while waiting for transfer to maize (Zea mays) , a seasonal staple food.

Rust in its earliest stages is seen as small yellow dots near the leaf margins, which then expand to become pale orange pustules or bubbles on the leaf surface.

Sorrel damage is usually not severe enough to be concerned with controlling rust, although corn should not be planted near it.

Beet curly top

This virus can affect many common vegetable in the garden, and again, sorrel can serve as a host for the disease, which is usually transmitted by the sugar beet grasshopper.

The main symptoms occur on the leaves, which, as the name suggests, are often curled and wrinkled.

They can also twist or curl, preventing the plant from photosynthesizing effectively and often causing it to die. There is no effective way to prevent this disease.

Powdery mildew

Powdery mildew is often more offensive than dangerous, but in hot, dry climates it can be quite severe. Although several varieties of fungi can cause powdery mildew, and almost all types of plants can get it, the culprit for sorrel is Microsphaera russellii .

The main symptom is a white or gray powdery growth along the leaf surfaces. The leaves may fall and the buds may not open.

Improving air circulation and increasing sunlight, which favors sorrel anyway, will reduce the chances of the disease and may cure it.


Although smut refers to a variety of fungal pathogens, the one that affects sorrel is Thecaphora capensis, originally designated as Ustilago oxalidis . The scientific name, which contains "oxalis" within it, gives an indication of its specificity.

The fungus colonizes the anthers of the plant, and although there is not much difference between a healthy plant and an infected plant, the spores of the fungus tend to replace the pollen of the plant, which probably makes the plant more difficult to reproduce.

Old recipes often start to "melt a handful of sorrel" because that's what it does when it cooks. There is no way to toughen it up and there is no reason to want to. Sorrel tastes too strong to be eaten as a vegetable.

If you taste it, you will see that it has enough lemon flavor to season a pot of potato soup or a saucepan with cream sauce. And because it purees itself, it saves you the trouble.

Garden sorrel is a spring-related perennial. It is easy to grow and can be as stubborn as its relatives.

Its strong flavor can be an acquired flavor and its acidity can seem excessively bitter, depending on the age of the leaves. Its relative, the French sorrel ( Rumex scutatus has a milder flavor).

Sorrel care

Sorrel care

Basically the sorrel is very easy to care for. However, it is advisable to remove the flower stems regularly so that leaf formation and growth are stimulated. They only cost the plants unnecessary strength.

Make sure that you always keep the soil evenly moist. A supply of humus is also recommended. As a rule, however, it is not necessary to add additional fertilizer, as sorrel is not a heavy eater. However, if you want to get a particularly rich harvest, you need to give the plant nitrogen once a month.

Some of the few precautions to take into account when planting sorrel is to ensure that the bed is kept free of weeds and should receive at least 1 inch of water a week .

The plants have deep roots and a persistent root system; so it grows perfectly with minimal care.

Sorrel grows the most when temperatures begin to rise. If you are going to use it for ornamental purposes you can allow the flower to bloom and enjoy it, but you should know that this will slow down the production of leaves, adverse for its culinary uses. The way to encourage increased leaf production is to cut the flower stalk.

Sorrel Harvest

Sorrel Harvest

After sowing and taking care of the shrub, you can start its leaves from late spring to late.  Harvest throughout the season as the leaves grow.  Once you select a page, a new one will grow in its place.

 Only what is being used is collected from the plant.  This is because the outer leaves can be cut off and the plant will continue to shed leaves.  Harvesting can be started if it is 4 to 6 inches long.  Small leaves are suitable for use in salads because they give it a slightly acidic touch.

  To promote continuous growth throughout the season, collect shrubs frequently and do not allow the plants to bloom, as flowering can cause the plant to produce seeds instead of producing new leaves.

  If you want to replant the plant, leave a flower or two on top of the tree in the fall to feed the hungry birds and sow the seeds in the next growing season.

Sorrel varieties

  • Big chestnut: the most widespread variety. Very rustic with leaves with a very pleasant acidic flavor.
  • Atropurp├║rea squirrel: decorative sorrel with purple veins that structure its elongated leaves. This gives it great aesthetic interest and will add color to the garden.
  • Virgin sorrel: a very productive and resistant variety that almost never goes to the seed (multiply it by dividing the tufts). Its leaves have a less acidic taste than those of other varieties. Good winter production.

  • Purple Sorrel - Very beautiful decorative sorrel with its purple foliage, the large sour leaves are delicious cooked, in soups or tortillas.

  • Common sorrel: it is the most common and offers the largest leaves.

  • Spinach sorrel or perpetual sorrel: similar to spinach leaves in shape and size.

  • Round sorrel: Very green and very round, it is a more original sorrel.

  • Wood sorrel: It has green leaves with purple veins.

Tips for growing sorrel

The most commonly used way to propagate sorrel is the use of seeds or by dividing roots.

Sorrel cultivation summary

  1. Place

    Exposed to the Sun (6 Hours minimum)

  2. Varieties

    Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and French sorrel

  3. Water

    1 inch a week

  4. I usually

    Good drainage and Ph from 5.5 to 6.8

  5. Flowerpot

    15 Cm deep

  6. Spread

    Seeds or Division

  • The planting can be done in spring or autumn . If it is done in this last season, we must bear in mind that the first frosts must appear a month and a half or two months after sowing so that the plant does not have problems.
  • Leaves must be cut even if they are not consumed to favor new shoots .
  • Flowering goes unnoticed and when it occurs, the leaves cease to have gastronomic value. The flower buds must be cut to favor the growth of the leaf, which is the part that interests us.

Recipe idea - pesto with sorrel

Sorrel recipe

  1. Wash the herbs, pat dry and finely chop. Grind sunflower or pine nuts. Peel the garlic and press it through the garlic press.
  2. Mix the herbs, seeds and oil together. Season to taste with lemon juice, parmesan and salt.
  3. Now cook the pasta as described on the package insert.
  4. The pesto is suitable as a spread and goes well with pasta or jacket potatoes.
  5. Let the pasta, jacket potatoes or whatever you can think of to taste.

Sorrel Use in the kitchen

The sorrel can easily be picked in normal quantities and consumed raw or cookedIt is suitable for salads and as a vegetable side dish, and it also tastes great in soups or sauces.

  • A delicious sorrel soup can be made from around 500 g of fresh dock leaves. To do this, finely chop the leaves and boil them with a liter of water until they collapse. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You already have a healthy soup and a great variety in the menu.
  • You can also cook sorrel with spinach as a tasty and spicy vegetable side dish.
  • When brewed as a tea , sorrel helps with digestive problems. 

Sorrel storage

Since sorrel quickly loses its typical aroma when dried, it is better to freeze it for preservation.

To do this, put the fresh leaves in a container filled with water and put it in the freezer. This works very well with oil too.

Important: Because of the oxalic acid it contains, sorrel should not be consumed excessively. Oxalic acid is found in many foods, including rhubarb, spinach, nuts and various types of tea. Occasional consumption in moderation can be regarded as harmless in healthy people. Pregnant women and people with bladder and kidney stones, rheumatism, gout or iron deficiency should consult their doctor before consumption.

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Soreelrecommendations needed

Always consult a doctor before using sorrel for any health conditionDried sorrel is more concentrated than fresh grass. Cutting the leaves and freezing them in freezer bags results in a more flavorful sorrel for cooking.

Cutting garden sorrel flowers helps the plant produce more leaves. Removing flowers before they go to seed also stops planting, to prevent plants from invading other areas of your garden, do not consume fresh or dried sorrel in large or concentrated quantities because it contains oxalic acid, which can cause damage to organs and even death in large doses.

Toxicity of sorrel

Sorrel is rich in salts of oxalic acid, so some patients should refrain from it. People with gout, arthritis, rheumatism and people prone to stones should remove them from their diet.

Acid, sorrel is prohibited for patients who suffer from ulcers or hyperacidity of the stomach. However, remember that the young leaves are much less acidic, so they can be eaten from time to time and in small quantities.

Frequently people Asked Questions 

In which soil to cultivate sorrel?

Sorrel appreciates heavy and clayey soils, very humus . It is perfectly suited to acidic soils. Give it a soil rich in nitrogen, cool and deep.

What exactly is sorrel?

The meadow sorrel, also known as the great sorrel, sorrel, Sauer Lump (Saxony) or Blacke (Switzerland), is a species of plant that belongs to the knotweed family. It is used as a wild vegetable and medicinal plant. Like the leaf spinach or the dandelion, the sorrel belongs to the leafy vegetables and spring herbs. The sorrel is native to Europe and is easy to spot thanks to its long, arrow-shaped leaves.

What does it help or what is it good for?

The sorrel has been used for centuries. Already in ancient times, in ancient Greece, the Romans and also in Egypt it was eaten as a food against vitamin and mineral deficiency. It was also used to lower a fever. In addition to vitamin C, the plant also contains a lot of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and E.

It is also written in many specialist journals that other ingredients are effective against anemia and have a blood-purifying and water-inducing effect.

Sorrel has many bitters and tannins, which are known to activate the production of digestive juices and make hearty meals easier to digest. In the past, sorrel was also used to treat gastrointestinal complaints.

How can I grow sorrel in my own garden?

Sorrel is a relatively undemanding plant. It will do best for you when placed in a partially shaded to sunny spot. The soil should be moist and very rich in nutrients. If you want to use the sorrel explicitly as a culinary herb, we recommend a partially shaded location, as the leaves stay smaller and become more juicy here.

Sorrel should, as already mentioned, be sown in the spring between March (as a balcony plant or container plant) and April in the bed. A "pre-cultivation" of sorrel on the windowsill or in a greenhouse is also successful with sorrel. So it can be transplanted into the bed or in the balcony tub in spring.

The plant needs sufficient warmth with temperatures around 15 ° C. The seeds are only superficially pressed onto the earth, since sorrel is a light germ.

In the open field, the soil or the soil should be fertilized a little beforehand. Normal compost or a previous green manure is recommended here. When using potting soil, additional fertilization is not necessary, as most of the commercially available soils are already lightly fertilized.

The plants can be multiplied, for example, by dividing older sorrel plants. The plants tend to spread uncontrollably, so  , or you should be sure that bed borders are really stable. The roots in particular, which can be up to 150 cm long, are one reason that sorrel can emerge as a young plant in various places and that other plants are affected and displaced.

At harvest time, the leaves are best used fresh. Preservation by soaking in oil is quite possible.