Monday, May 11, 2015

An Ode to Sorrel

If you ask a homestead-minded person what their favorite spring greens to forage are, you'll probably get responses like dandelions, lambs quarters, mallow, maybe even stinging nettles.  But one that's rarely mentioned is sorrel (or the related dock).  It's the Rodney Dangerfield of spring greens. (It don't get no respect!)  That's a real shame, because Rumex species are delicious, nutritious, and high-yielding.  We recently had the chance to gather up a mess of sorrel growing in our back yard and cook it up into a couple of dishes that are likely to become mainstays in our culinary rotation. That is, they were tasty, pretty easy to cook, and the main ingredient (sorrel) is easy to gather a lot of over a long season.  Read on, and hopefully be inspired to forage some sorrel yourself!

Here is the sorrel in it's natural environment.  What's that you say? It's hard to discern it from all the burdock, buckthorn, and other weeds?  That's just our first line of defense against sorrel poachers.  We're pretty sure this cultivar is common sheep sorrel, Rumex acetosella.

Here is a comparison for how much sorrel we were able to harvest (right) in roughly the same amount of time as it took to pick the swiss chard (left).  That is, although we didn't calculate it, the Berry Modulus is probably higher for our sorrel than our chard.  We rinsed the sorrel, sent the leaves into a couple varieties of sorrel pesto, and the sent the stems into a soup. (The chard went into a quiche.)

For pesto, we used this recipe as a starting point, then improvised from there. We only had ground almonds for the nutty part, but they worked.  We used garlic powder instead of raw garlic cloves for one batch; that also worked.  We also added black pepper.  Lastly, we committed pesto heresy and replaced the parmesan cheese with a regular old monterrey jack in one batch, and that worked, too.  If that means we can't call it pesto any more, so be it. It's a seasoned, cheesy, sorrel-based green-colored spread dip thing.  Call it what you like.

Meanwhile, we also had the crock pot full of chopped carrots, potatoes, green onions, celery, sorrel stems, and a lamb leg roast.  Other meats that would be good in this application include, but are not limited to, chicken, venison/beef, and pork.

When the meat was done, we trimmed and sliced it up, and set it on top of some pesto-smeared toast.  By toast, we mean bread rendered brown and crispy by hot butter in a frying pan.

Taking the roast out of the crock pot left a bunch of veggies, which we made into a creamy soup by adding some heavy whipping cream and plain yogurt.  Good stuff, Maynard!

As a side note, sorrel changes color from a bright, cheerful green to a drab army/olive color and falls apart when cooked.  So if you're going to cook it, make sure to hide it in a casserole or something.  It seems to hold it's color ok when frozen (provided you don't blanch it first), but we haven't tried making anything out of the frozen stuff yet.  We'll report back later on how that goes.

How do you eat sorrel?  What other greens are you foraging this time of year?  Let us know in the comments section below!

The Recipe
2 lb roast (lamb, pork, venison, or chicken)
1 lb carrots, sliced
1 lb potatoes, cubed
1 lb celery, sliced
0.25 lbs green onions, sliced
Stems from 1.5 lb sorrel
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon each garlic powder, oregano, black pepper
1.5 teaspoons each salt and red pepper
0.5 cup heavy whipping cream
0.5 cup plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons flour

Leaves from 1.5 lb sorrel
3 garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
0.5-0.75 cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds, or 0.25-0.5 cup ground almonds
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.25-0.5 cup olive oil
0.5 cup grated cheese

3 Tablespoon butter
6 slices bread

Cook roast, carrots, potatoes, celery, green onions, and sorrel stems in the water in a crock pot until meat is cooked through and tender, seasoning with garlic powder, oregano, black and red pepper, and salt to taste.  Remove meat, trim and slice.  Add whipping cream, yogurt, and flour to remaining soup, cook until slightly thickened.  While roast is cooking, make pesto from sorrel leaves, garlic, nuts, salt, olive oil and cheese. (Put everything in a food processor and process until creamy and spreadable.  Coarsely chop sorrel leaves before adding to processor to avoid bridging.)  Melt butter in frying pan, brown one side of bread, flip, and brown other side.  While the second side is browning, top bread with pesto and sliced roast.  Serve with soup and smiles.

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