Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is a wonderful wild food to gather from fields and hedgerows. It has a lemony tang which is great with fish, dairy products and in salad.
Here I describe a little of its characteristics and uses. You can find sorrel in my Wild Food Foraging book, including;
- Photos of it in different seasons
- Step by step recipes with photos
- ID tips
- Nutritional benefits
Sorrel is one of the plants I cover in my foraging courses, which is a fantastic way to learn about foraging through hands on experience with a professional guide.
This is so easy and a great way to use wild herbs and smother baked potatoes, toast, fish or anything you wish with foraged goodness. The butter can either be used within one week or frozen and sliced as needed.
When to make herb butters
Spring is often when an abundance of herbs appear and are at their best. In summer most flower and seed late-summer to autumn. You may find a new bounty in Autumn but bear the flurry of spring greens in mind!
60 g butter, room temperature
1 tbsp wild herbs
Herbs you could use:
- wild chervil
- wild garlic
- scurvy grass
- wild mustard
- hairy bittercress
- yarrow leaves
Method: Wash and dry the herb you are going to use, this minimises the water which doesn't blend brilliantly with fat! I pat mine dry on a tea towel. Finely chop and blend thoroughly with the butter. Use immediately, or if you're going to keep or freeze it, I wrap mine in greaseproof paper and roll into a sausage-shape. Once in a sausage-shape, it it is easy to slice from fresh or frozen and watch melt over hot food.
All the herbs mentioned are taught on my foraging courses, especially in Spring but perhaps not all on the same course! You can also keep up to date with what I'm foraging, making or cooking at @rachellambertwildfoodforaging
According to my Danish friend, this is what green tastes like!
The colour and flavour of this tart is heavenly! Fresh sorrel leaves add a wonderful lemony tang to desserts and savoury dishes. I used Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) for this recipe, but you could use cultivated sorrel or a different wild variety that grows abundantly in your area.
Here I share the recipe. Common sorrel is also one of the plants I cover in my book; Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and on Spring Foraging Courses.
Wild Sorrel Tart recipe
I remember squatting in a field in West Cornwall and plucking fresh sorrel leaves from amongst the grass. Stuffing them in my pockets, I scurried away to trial another mouth-watering sweet sorrel tart. Here’s my winning version. Rich and tangy, it is perfect served on its own.
- 75 g salted butter
- 100 g plain flour
- 50 g wholemeal flour
- 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1–2 tbsp water
- A little egg white
For the filling
- 1 whole egg
- 4 egg yolks
- 105 g unrefined granulated sugar
- 200 g sorrel leaves and stems
- 150 ml double cream
To make the pastry, cube the butter, sieve in the flour and sugar and rub between your fingertips until the mixture is well combined and resembles breadcrumbs. Add one tablespoon water and bind the pastry together, adding a tiny bit more water if needed. Wrap the dough in cling film, or in reusable wax wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease a 23cm flan tin. Roll out the pastry and place in the flan tin, cutting off any overhanging pastry. Prick all over with a fork, place a piece of baking paper on top, fill with baking beans or equivalent and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, brush lightly with enough egg white to seal any holes and gaps and bake for another 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 170°C.
Meanwhile, wash the sorrel leaves and stems and either put them through a juicer, or blend until smooth, then gently squeeze through a jelly bag. There should be about 150ml of juice. If you have less, squeeze the pulp some more to see if you can make up the amount. Next, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks and sugar. Spoon in the cream, followed by the juice, until there is a uniform pale green colour.
Pour or ladle into the pastry base and, very carefully and slowly, place in the oven. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the filling is set in the middle. Allow to cool before slicing and serving.
Spring is full of wild ingredients that are perfect for adding into, oh so many different recipes. Farinata - a savoury bake made out of chickpea flour - is a great carrier for these spring wilds. Like an omelette, though egg-less, baked in the oven and extremely tasty, it happens to be vegan and gluten-free too and is easy to add shoots, leaves and flowers, and even seaweed to. Here's my spring version, feel free to add different wilds. I've made a version with hogweed shoots and rosemary too, which was equally delicious.
Wild Spring Farinata Recipe
Makes 7-8 farinatas
- 300 g chickpea flour
- 1 litre water
- 1 heaped tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground seaweed (I used bladderwrack/popweed, Fucus vesiculosus)
- Light olive oil or vegetable oil
- Large handful three-cornered leek/wild garlic, chopped
- Small handful common sorrel leaves and stems, chopped
In a large bowl mix the chickpea flour, water, salt and seaweed. Whisk well to combine. Leave to sit for at least an hour, ideally overnight, it will also keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Using a heavy-bottom, oven proof pan, generously add oil and heat over a medium to high heat, till almost smoking.
Spoon in a couple of ladles full of the mixture, coating the pan with a thin layer, about 0.5-1 cm thick. Sprinkle over some three-cornered leek, allow to cook for 5 mintues, sprinkle on the sorrel and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and slice off with a fish slice or similar. Re-oil the pan and repeat with another couple of ladles full and follow until you have enough to eat! Best eaten fresh. Like I mentioned, the mixture keeps well in the fridge well for a few days in the fridge, so you don't have to finish it all in one go.
Works well as a snack (shared it on the beach with a foraging group), I also shared it with a friend, served with a potato salad and well-dressed green salad for supper. I run monthly foraging courses which always include homemade, wild tasters. I'm also available for private forays, looking at the weeds on your land, in your area or just for a holiday delight.
Song, verse, sound and rhyme have been used by humans for thousands of years to communicate, respond and express. Sound is an integral part of our daily landscape. It has been used functionally (to explain things) as well as for fun and as an essential part of celebrations across the world. Rachel Lambert is a foraging teacher who has sung all her life. She sings on her own on the moor, with friends, with family, to mourn and to celebrate life. Since childhood she has learnt songs and made up songs, feeling happy to hit the right or wrong note and just enjoy singing!
Why wild singing
There is much scientific evidence to suggest that singing is good for the brain, heart, gets creative juices running, sends feel good endorphins round the body and can help counter anxiety and loneliness. Coupled with the great outdoors, which can legitimately claim similar health and well-being benefits, wild singing is a pretty good boost for the body and soul.
The benefits of using song to learn about plants
Singing about plants and nature is also part of our historical tapestry. When Rachel Lambert (Wild Walks South West) has researched past uses of plants she’s often come across poems and songs. Songs tell of plant uses, claims of curing ills, bringing love and of old traditions. Rachel has taken this idea and created new songs to tell of plant qualities she often shares with participants on her foraging courses. Songs can be a great way to remember things, as well as just enjoying the moment.
If you'd like to see snippets of other songs, or read more about this experience, you may want to view my other Wild Singing blogs. I run The Singing Forager Experience for anyone who'd like to listen to, hum along or join in. Dates for these are here; The Singing Forager Experience and details of how to book is here.
Follow the #singingforager to find out or hear more.