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Common Sorrel

Rumex acetosa

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Polygonaceae (Dock)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Fields, grassland, lawns, meadows, mountains, roadsides, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

Green, 3 petals
Small green flowers, often tinged red. The flowers grow in compact leafless spikes.
Brown, flat, roundish fruit. 3-edged and glossy.
Long-stalked basal leaves. Stem leaves are very short-stalked and alternate along the stems. Not hairy. The leaves are untoothed, pointed and arrow-shaped. The 2 lobes at the base of each leaf are pointed.
Other Names:
Garden Sorrel, Green Sauce, Narrow-leaved Dock, Patriot's Blood, Sharp Dock, Sorrel Dock, Sour Dock, Sour Grass, Sour Leek, Spinach Dock.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Rumex acetosa, commonly known as common sorrel, garden sorrel, or spinach dock, is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soil types and can tolerate shade and dry conditions. The leaves of the plant are edible and have a tart, lemony flavor. They are often used in salads and as a flavoring herb in soups, stews, and sauces. The plant is also rich in vitamin C and minerals such as iron, potassium and manganese.


Common sorrel, also known as Rumex acetosa, is a perennial herb that is widely distributed in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America. It belongs to the family Polygonaceae and is closely related to other edible plants like buckwheat and rhubarb.

Common sorrel has a distinctive sour taste, which is due to the presence of oxalic acid in its leaves. This acid gives it a tart, lemony flavor and makes it a popular ingredient in many culinary dishes. In fact, it has been used as a food source for thousands of years and was a popular herb in ancient Rome.

The plant is a low-growing perennial, with slender stems that grow up to 2 feet tall. The leaves are long and arrow-shaped, with a bright green color and a glossy appearance. The plant also produces small, inconspicuous flowers that are greenish-red in color.

One of the most common uses of common sorrel is as a culinary herb. Its sour taste makes it a popular addition to salads, soups, sauces, and stews. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and its leaves can also be used to make a refreshing tea.

Apart from its culinary uses, common sorrel also has several medicinal properties. Its high vitamin C content makes it an excellent source of antioxidants, which can help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. It is also a natural diuretic and can help promote urinary health by flushing out toxins and reducing inflammation.

Common sorrel is also believed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can help prevent infections and promote overall immune health. In traditional medicine, it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including indigestion, heartburn, and fever.

Common sorrel is a versatile and highly nutritious herb that has been used for thousands of years for its culinary and medicinal properties. Its distinctive sour taste and high nutrient content make it a popular ingredient in many dishes, and its health benefits make it a valuable addition to any diet. If you haven't tried common sorrel yet, consider adding it to your next meal or trying it as a refreshing tea.

One of the unique features of common sorrel is its high level of oxalic acid. While this compound gives the herb its tart flavor, it can also be harmful in large quantities, as it can bind with calcium and form crystals in the body, which can contribute to the development of kidney stones. Therefore, it is important to consume common sorrel in moderation and to balance it with other foods that are high in calcium.

Common sorrel can be easily grown in a home garden, as it thrives in well-drained soil and prefers partial shade to full sun. It can be harvested throughout the growing season, and the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. To ensure a continuous harvest, it is best to cut the leaves before the plant begins to flower.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, common sorrel also has cultural significance in some parts of the world. In France, for example, it is a traditional ingredient in soups and stews and is sometimes used to make a sauce called "sauce verte," which is served with fish or meat. In Ukraine, common sorrel is a popular ingredient in a soup called "green borscht," which is made with sorrel, potatoes, and other vegetables.

Common sorrel is a versatile herb with a unique flavor and a variety of health benefits. Whether you are looking to add more nutrition to your diet or to experiment with new flavors in the kitchen, common sorrel is definitely worth trying. With its long history of culinary and medicinal use, it is a testament to the enduring value of traditional knowledge and the power of nature to provide for our needs.

Common sorrel has been used in traditional medicine for many years to treat a variety of health conditions. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. It may also have a mild laxative effect and can help relieve constipation and improve digestion.

Common sorrel is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium. It also contains flavonoids, which are natural compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Flavonoids may help protect against chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

In addition to its nutritional and medicinal properties, common sorrel has a variety of other uses. It can be used as a natural dye, producing shades of yellow, green, and brown. It has also been used as a poultice for wounds and skin conditions, as it is believed to have antibacterial properties.

Common sorrel has some potential side effects, particularly if consumed in large quantities. As mentioned earlier, its high oxalic acid content can bind with calcium in the body, leading to the formation of kidney stones. It may also interfere with the absorption of certain minerals, such as iron and zinc. Additionally, some people may experience an allergic reaction to common sorrel, particularly if they have a history of allergies to plants in the Polygonaceae family.

Common sorrel is a unique and versatile herb that has been used for centuries for its culinary and medicinal properties. While it is generally safe and nutritious when consumed in moderation, it is important to be aware of its potential side effects and to consult a healthcare provider before using it as a remedy for any health condition. As with all herbs and supplements, it is important to use common sorrel responsibly and to enjoy its many benefits in the context of a balanced and varied diet.

Common sorrel is a versatile herb that can be used in many different ways. In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, it can be used to make a refreshing tea or added to smoothies and other beverages. To make sorrel tea, simply steep a handful of fresh sorrel leaves in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, then strain and enjoy.

Common sorrel can also be preserved for later use by freezing, drying, or pickling. Freezing and drying are good options if you want to preserve the herb's flavor and nutritional content, while pickling can give it a tangy and delicious flavor that is great for adding to sandwiches and salads.

When using common sorrel in recipes, it is important to balance its sour taste with other ingredients. Common pairings include eggs, cheese, potatoes, and fish, as well as other herbs such as chives, parsley, and dill. Common sorrel is also often used in sauces and dressings, where its sourness can add a nice tangy kick.

Overall, common sorrel is a unique and flavorful herb with many potential health benefits. Whether you are using it to add flavor to your favorite recipes or to help promote better health, it is a valuable addition to any kitchen or home garden. So next time you come across some fresh sorrel at the market, give it a try and see how it can enhance your culinary and wellness experience!


Common Sorrel filmed in several locations during May 2023.


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Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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