WTF* Is That? It's Sorrel

Tasty...and actually poisonous

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By David Hammond

At the Oak Park Farmer's Market on Saturday, we saw sorrel for sale at Nichol's. Now, I was at Nichol's last week, too, and even though the prices at this vendor are not always the lowest, I have to hand it to them: they are always experimenting with new products to offer the farmers' market shopper.

I bought the sorrel for like three bucks. Back home, I pondered how to prepare it. I finally decided to treat it like any dark leafy vegetable: I chopped it up and sautéed it in olive oil.

It tasted a lot like spinach (and like spinach, it needs to be washed well before eating: I rinsed mine twice and there was still some grit in there).

I ate about half the bunch (maybe 4 oz), and put the rest in the refrigerator.

Maybe it's good I didn't eat the whole bunch.

Researching online I discovered that sorrel's sometimes sharp taste is due to oxalic acid, which in large quantities can prove fatal (!).

Now, before you freak out and forego ever visiting Nichol's again, let me point out that many common vegetables can be fatal if not cooked. I've written before about chaya, the Mexican leaf that's poisonous unless cooked, and the more common potato contains solanine, a known poison, but the concentrations are usually only dangerous in green potatoes or potato flowers. 

I liked the sorrel. I'd buy it again. And at three bucks for a small bag, it's very unlikely that I'll ever buy enough to be fatal.

*WTF is acronym for "What at The Farmers' market." Why, what did you think the acronym meant?


Reader Comments

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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 13th, 2013 10:50 AM

Diego, that's the thing about obscure vegetables at OPFM: they're on the expensive side. But as I can't get them elsewhere -- or simply don't know where to get them -- I'm willing to pay the upcharge. Thanks for the intel re: Brazilian caldo, and thanks for the support re: title of this series. To paraphrase Dita Von Tesse, When I'm at the point where I'm pleasing everyone, I'm through.

Diego from Broadview  

Posted: June 5th, 2013 11:33 AM

Anything that's dark and leafy can be made into Brazilian caldo verde. That would be a good way to try this out (but at $3 a pop that might be more than I would pay for doing so). On a side note, I am a fan of your use of WTF, leave the nanny comments to the nanny software...sheesh...

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 2nd, 2013 7:41 PM

We actually came across some sorrel growing wild, Jenny, during our urban forage of a few weeks ago. I'm not surprised that it's easy to fact, I may have some growing in back that I've never harvested.


Posted: June 2nd, 2013 12:43 PM

Sorrel is also easy to grow and it's one of a handful of perennial vegetables. So if you like it you may want to add to your garden. I bought my first plants from the OP Conservatory herb sale years okay. It's one of the first plants to come up in the spring along with chives so you will often see recipes for sorrel and chive soup. Enjoy!

Leslie from Galewood   

Posted: May 31st, 2013 3:08 PM

They are best eaten breaded and fried- the healthy way! Haha!

Julie from Oak Park  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 7:28 AM

Not a fan of your use of WTF, or the cutesy sentence you use to justify it. I get it--you want readers, especially young ones. But putting that in a headline comes across as cheap and crass. When it comes to language use, I'm no purist. But not sure why you would want to associate your (interesting) article with that overused phrase.

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