When I was walking with the dog this morning, basking in the emerging verdant majesty that is spring in full flood, I noticed a fresh new crop of Common Sorrel growing up on the edges of the pathways that had recently been mowed. Glancing around I could see masses of the stuff bursting forth like little emerald starbursts in the grass.
Armed with my trusty, professional foraging carrier bag, I quickly gathered enough for a quick, family lunchtime favourite.
Sorrel is great. If you’ve never tried it before it’s like Nature’s own version of Haribos TangFastic sour sweets.
Somewhere between green apple peel and lemon, the tart, sour tang is a rare delight in a world where so many wild greens are frighteningly bitter to our modern palates.
I’ve discussed why I consider foraging wild food to be a huge boon for our health in this post, so I thought it would be helpful to give you all a little recipe to help you include some wild goodness into your day.
The types of sorrel we are using for this recipe are Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and/or Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), both members of the dock family. Not to be confused with Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella); while this plant is great and and has a lovely delicate tang, the flavour doesn’t survive the cooking process. And don’t confuse it with Red/Jamaican Sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa) either, again a totally different plant.
Sorrel is relatively easy to spot and identify, with it’s longish shiny leaves, with two sharp, pointed lobes at the base where it meets the long stem. On Common Sorrel the points generally point down or inwards; in Sheep Sorrel the tend to point outwards (think sheep horns).
And Sorrel is packed full of goodness in the form of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
As always, you need to be sure you have the right plant before you stick it in your gob. Two possible plant to mistake for Sorrel are Meadow Bindweed and Lords and Ladies, so get some good ID books or advice and learn these plants too. Lords and Ladies is especially bad if you get confused!
One thing to be aware of with Sorrel is that it gets it’s tang from Oxalic acid. Found in many food, it’s generally not an issue for most people in sensible doses. The general advice amongst the foraging community is a maximum of two cupped handfuls of Sorrel a day. You’d be unlikely to want to eat more to be honest. Cooking will diminish it slightly too. If you suffer from kidney stone or have been advised to stay on a low oxalate diet you may want to skip this one.
Another of the ingredients for this soup is red lentils. Lentils get a pretty bad rap in the ancestral eating and paleo diet world. At Wild Life we don’t like to villainise any food or food group outright, but try to see the benefits or negatives it brings to different individuals, and encourage people to be there own experiment when it comes to diet.
Lentils are often clumped into the same camp as grains as being less than optimal, and even downright problematic to human digestion. And it’s true, seeds, grains and legumes contain a number of substances that can cause us issues.
You see, these are the parts of plants that become new plants. It doesn’t make sense for the plant to produce them only for them to be gobbled up and digested by passing animals. So the plant laces them with phyto-toxins to help prevent total destruction as it passes through the gut. The main ones of concern for us are Lectins and Phytic Acid.
Lectins are an anti-nutrient. They have been shown to damage the gut lining and potentially trigger auto-immune responses leading to a whole host of health problems.
Thankfully cooking seems to diminish the lectins a great deal, as does soaking them beforehand.
Phytic acid has the bad reputation of binding itself to many of the minerals we need for good health. In excessive phytic acid rich diets this can lead to mineral deficiencies. But some research has suggested that phytic acid may be beneficial to some people, such as sufferers of haemochromatosis, and may even have some anti-cancer benefits.
Again soaking and cooking greatly reduces the amounts of phytic acid.
On top of all this lentils supply us with a whole host of fibre, minerals, vitamins, protein and energy.
So whilst I’m not advocating a lentil heavy diet, the inclusion of a few servings, now and then, is far from a bad thing.
They don’t work for everyone though, and different legumes affect different people in different ways. I love chickpeas. Chickpeas don’t love me. My family don’t love me when I eat chickpeas. I am outright banned from eating chickpeas. Do your own research and open the damn window.
Let’s get on with it.
Sorrel and Red Lentil Soup
- 50 g butter or alternative
- 1 large onion
- 2 large carrots
- 2 stems of celery
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 200 g sorrel leaves, washed
- 125 g red lentils, washed (and soaked if you like)
- 1 L stock, veg or chicken
- 2 tbsp double cream or alternative
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Chop the garlic, carrots, celery, and onion and add them to a pan along with half of the butter. Cook on a low heat for about 5-10 minutes.
- When the veg is beginning to soften, but not colour, add the lentils and stock. Turn the heat up to medium. Cook for about 15 minutes until the veg and the lentils are soft. Stir occasionally.
- Remove from the heat and add the sorrel, remainder of the butter and the cream. Using a stick blender, blend until it is a smooth liquid.
- Add more liquid if it is not to the desired consistency, and pop it back on the heat until it's piping hot. Season as necessary.
- Serve up and add a little drizzle of cream if you want to look swanky.
And that’s it. Wholesome and tangy. It’s strangely warming and refreshing at the same time. So give it a go and let us know what you think.
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