Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wood Sorrel - free food & tea from your garden and forest

There are many species of common wood sorrel in North America (Oxalis species - oxalidaceae). The type I find at Chapman's Landing is prolific and would usually be thought of as a weed given that it is invasive and common. This wood sorrel has tiny clover shaped leaves and little yellow flowers with five petals. At night, or in cooler weather, the leaves fold up. Wild or wood sorrel is different than the broad leaf sorrel (ruminex acetosa) that I wrote about earlier this year.

The sour leaves are delicious eaten as a garden snack but I also like to add them to salads and use as edible wild garnishes. Lately I have started making wild sorrel tea and that couldn't be easier.

Other names: oxalis, sourgrass, sour trefoil, sorrel du bois

When picking from the wild it is important that you have a good field guide so you can positively identify edible wild food and avoid those which cause digestive upset, or worse, poisoning. Use three photographic references whenever possible. I use "Edible Wild Plants of Eastern/Central North America (Peterson Field Guides) and "Edible Garden Weeds of Canada" by Szczawinski and Turner. I have others but these seem to be the most used this year.

1 cup common wood sorrel - 250 ml
2 cups boiling water - 500 ml

Steep the leaves in the boiling water for 10 minutes. I find it delicious unsweetened but you can also stir in some honey. The cold tea is lemonade-like and can be added to home-made juices and punch.

MEDICINAL USE: according to folk medicine sorrel was infused as a tea to treat kidney and liver ailments. The fresh leaf and rhizome are diuretic, laxative and antiseptic. The wood sorrels contain oxalic acid which can be troublesome in larger quantities but it is not at all dangerous in moderation.

© Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc
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