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Growing sorrel in home gardens

Sorrel (Rumex scutatus, R. acetosa) is a perennial vegetable hardy enough for Minnesota gardens. It is in the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae, has a sour flavor and is among the first crops ready for harvest in spring.

Sorrel is an early spring perennial vegetable, hardy into USDA Zone 3. Its bright lemony flavored leaves are good in mixed salads, on sandwiches and in soups. Cooking greatly reduces the tartness, so you can put large amounts of sorrel in soups.

Start sorrel seed indoors three weeks before last frost, or direct seed in early spring. Choose a spot in full sun with good drainage. Space mature plants at least a foot apart. If the plant thrives and spreads outside its space, divide it in spring.

Proper watering will enhance good production. Soak the soil thoroughly when watering, to a depth of at least one inch each week during the growing season.

Frequent, shallow cultivation will kill weeds before they become a problem. Be careful not to damage the plants when cultivating. Keep your tool away from the plant itself.

Once the plants establish, harvest sorrel at any time from early spring until frost kills the growth. Pluck individual leaves. You can use the leaves whole or chopped. Young leaves are much tenderer than older leaves.

Remove seed stalks that emerge, just as you would rhubarb. Sorrel plants are not as long-lived as rhubarb. You can start new plants easily from seed and many gardeners treat sorrel as an annual.

Vincent Fritz, Extension horticulturist and Cindy Tong, Extension post-harvest horticulturist

Reviewed in 2018

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