Sorrel, the plant rumex acetosa, a native of Europe, Asia, and arctic America, which has long been in cultivation. The genus rumex (the ancient Latin name) belongs to the Polygonacece or buckwheat family, and consists of more than 100 species, several of which, either indigenous or introduced, are found all over this country and are popularly known as docks. Sorrel is a perennial, with a tuft of radical leaves which are 4 in. or more long, and arrow-shaped at the base; its flower stalks are 2 ft. or more high, bearing leafless panicles of unisexual, dioecious, or sometimes monoecious flowers, which are apetalous, small, and greenish, often turning red; the calyx deeply six-cleft, the three inner segments enlarging in fruit, orbicular, and somewhat petallike, enclosing the triangular nut. The leaves are pleasantly sour, owing to the presence of the acid oxalate of potash. In France half a dozen varieties of this are cultivated, of which the Belleville is the most popular. Though sorrel is rarely eaten by the English, the French regard it as one of the necessaries of life. It is used in salads and in soups, but more commonly it is dressed in the same manner as spinach; if too strongly acid when pure to suit the taste, it is mixed with spinach or patience dock.
While it is comparatively little known in this country, its use is increasing, and it is now quite regularly found in the markets. - Sheep sorrel belongs to the same genus, and is R. acetosella, introduced from Europe, and one of the well known weeds of agriculture; it grows from a few inches to a foot or more high; the lower leaves are halberd-shaped; its dioecious flowers in slender panicles, the fertile ones turning reddish. The herbage of this is also sour, and where it is abundant and luxuriant is sometimes used by Europeans as a substitute for the garden sorrel; children often eat the pleasantly sour leaves. In some countries the juice of this, as well as of the preceding, is used to curdle milk. As a weed the plant is most abundant upon worn-out soils. Wood sorrel is described under Oxalis. (See also Tree Sorrel).
Sorrel (Rumex acctosa) - the variety called "Belleville".
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella).