Sorrel and Spring

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WHEN I BUMPED INTO MY FRIEND Pat Crocker at Canada Blooms, she was very excited about her soon-to-be released herb cookbook. It sounds really great, so I asked Pat if I could share a sneak-peak here!

If you’ve seen my talk Crops that Wow, you’ll know that I always mention sorrel as one of my favourite crops. It’s easy to grow, it’s difficult to find fresh sorrel leaves in stores, and it is versatile in the kitchen—all of which make it worth my while growing. (And I've cooked with sorrel on TV!)

Read what Pat says about sorrel in The Herbalist’s Kitchen. Cooking and Healing with Herbs:

Bitter Herbs

Herbalists and other natural healers champion the bitter taste of some herbs and garden greens because although aggressive, bitter flavors are also fresh and stimulating to the body and the brain. It is generally agreed that bitters support the heart, small intestines, and liver, as well as reduce fever. As one of the four official tastes–sweet, salty, bitter and sour–bitter is just now getting some respect and beginning to take its rightful place at the table.

Some ancient traditions link the four tastes to mental as well as physical effects on the body. For example, a balanced intake of bitter flavors is thought to encourage honesty, integrity, optimism, and a loving heart. Not bad for a friend that started out as a bully in the kitchen.

The astringent taste of greens such as endive, chicory, wild sheep sorrel and cultivated sorrel, radicchio, dandelion and yellow dock awakens the palate and poises it for more balanced tastes in the meal to come. The digestive tonic action promotes the secretion of hydrochloric acid, which aids digestion so take bitter greens at the start of a meal. A small light salad or a few sips of bitter greens are excellent tools for whetting the appetite.

Leafy bitter greens and herbs not only positively affect our body and brain, but they deliver vitamins A and C, fiber, iron, and calcium, all with low caloric impact. Toss any of the above-mentioned bitter herbs into an appetizer salad or use in smoothies and soup.

Herbalists and other natural healers champion the bitter taste of some herbs and garden greens because although aggressive, bitter flavors are also fresh and stimulating to the body and the brain. It is generally agreed that bitters support the heart, small intestines, and liver, as well as reduce fever. As one of the four official tastes–sweet, salty, bitter and sour–bitter is just now getting some respect and beginning to take its rightful place at the table.

Pat’s Sorrel Soup

This is a healthy, tonic soup, best if made in the spring when peas are fresh. It’s meant to strengthen invalids, but the cream and eggs may be omitted. It is thick and flavorful and if you wish to thin it down, add more broth at the end, in step 2. The recipe is adapted from Gardening With Herbs, Helen Morgenthau Fox, but it dates at least to Dalgairns, 1830 and was once called Nun’s Broth.

Makes 6 servings

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 small heads lettuce, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh peas
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped purslane, optional
  • 1 cup packed sorrel leaves
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh chervil or parsley
  • 6 green onions, sliced diagonally
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 pieces of toast, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Fresh grind of pepper
  • 1/2 cup table cream (18% butterfat), optional
  • 2 egg yolks, optional
  1. In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, lettuce, peas, purslane, sorrel, chervil and green onions. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently for 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add broth, carrots, cucumbers, toast, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.

  2. Transfer soup to a large bowl. Ladle soup into the blender in batches and purée on high speed for 1 minute or until smooth and return each batch to the soup pot. Repeat until all herbs, vegetables and broth are puréed. Stir in the cream and egg yolks, bring to the boiling point but do not boil, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat. Taste, add more salt if necessary, and ladle into bowls.

Adapted from The Herbalist’s Kitchen (Sterling, NY, June, 2018) by Pat Crocker, www.patcrocker.com