30cm between rows
Sorrel makes a great alternative to spinach as the leaves have a more tangy, slightly citrussy taste. A perennial plant, the leaves can be harvested over a long period through to midwinter.
They can be grown as a cut-and-come-again salad leaf, or left to mature and added to soups and sauces. Sorrel is easy to grow, with plants producing an abundance of pale green leaves.
Find out how to grow sorrel in our Grow Guide.
Sowing and planting sorrel
Sorrel thrives in a sunny or partially-shady spot, in fertile and moisture-retentive soil. It can be grown from seed, but as a perennial plant, you could also take a rooted cutting or a division from an existing plant.
Sow sorrel seeds in spring, a few in small pots filled with seed compost, cover and water well. Sorrel seeds will take up to six weeks to germinate. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, pot them up into individual containers. You can grow them on in containers, or plant out later into borders.
Keep sorrel well-watered, particularly in dry weather as this can make the plant run to seed. Keeping plants moist will also encourage plenty of fresh new growth.
Once your sorrel plants are established, the foliage will die back over winter. Every few years, plants should be divided in spring or autumn to rejuvenate them and ensure they keep producing good foliage.
Pick leaves regularly through the growing season. This will encourage more fresh new growth for salad leaves. For mature leaves, simply leave the plants for longer before picking.
The leaves are best used fresh, but can be frozen for use in soups and sauces.
Preparation and uses
The young leaves make a zesty addition to salads, and they bring a distinctive flavour to soups and sauces. Mature sorrel leaves, like spinach, reduce substantially when cooked, so you need a good quantity. Sorrel goes well with fish, meat and egg and the leaves can also be added raw to dishes.
Sorrel: problem solving
Sorrel is relatively trouble-free. Pinch out flowering stems to keep up the leaf production.
Sorrel varieties to try
- Rumex scutatus (pictured) – also known as buckler-leaved or French sorrel, this is a low-growing, creeping variety. Grow in a sunny or partially-shady spot, in a fertile and moisture-retentive soil
- Rumex sanguineus – with attractive, pointed, bright lime-green leaves with dark red veins the leaves are best harvested when young and used raw in salads
- Rumex acetosa – this broad-leaved sorrel is easy to grow, producing masses of pale green leaves
- Rumex scutatus ‘Silver Shield’ – this variety has slivery-green leaves, with a slightly less acid flavour, and looks good in an ornamental border