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Rumex acetosa - L.                
                 
Common Name Sorrel, Garden sorrel
Family Polygonaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards Plants can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, which is what gives the leaves of many members of this genus an acid-lemon flavour. Perfectly alright in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[238].
Habitats Meadows, by streams and in open places in woodland[7, 17]. Often found as a weed of acid soils[1].
Range Most of Europe, including Britain, temperate Asia, N. America, Greenland.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Rumex acetosa is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Jun to August. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Synonyms
Acetosa hastulata Raf. Acetosa hastifolia Schur. Acetosa angustata Raf.
Rumex acetosa Sorrel, Garden sorrel


Rumex acetosa Sorrel, Garden sorrel
   
Habitats
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Meadow; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves;  Root;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Curdling agent.

Leaves - raw or cooked[2, 4, 5, 7, 13, 27]. They make a thirst-quenching on their own, or can be added to salads, used as a potherb or pureed and used in soups[183]. A delicious lemon-like flavour, liked by most people who try them, they can be rather overpowering in quantity and are more generally used as a flavouring in mixed salads[K]. The leaves can also be dried for later use[12]. The leaves can be available all through the winter, especially in mild weather or if a little protection is given to the plants[K]. The leaves should be used sparingly in the diet[9, 21], see the notes on toxicity above. Flowers - cooked as a vegetable or used as a garnish[183]. Root - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and made into noodles[105]. Seed - raw or cooked[172]. Ground into a powder and mixed with other flours to make bread[183]. The seed is easy to harvest, but is rather small and fiddly to use[K]. The juice of the leaves can be used as a curdling agent for milks[4, 183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Anthelmintic;  Antiscorbutic;  Astringent;  Depurative;  Diuretic;  Febrifuge;  Homeopathy;  Laxative;  Refrigerant;  Stomachic.

The fresh or dried leaves are astringent, diuretic, laxative and refrigerant[4, 7, 14, 21, 238]. They are used to make a cooling drink in the treatment of fevers and are especially useful in the treatment of scurvy[4]. The leaf juice, mixed with fumitory, has been used as a cure for itchy skin and ringworm[4]. An infusion of the root is astringent, diuretic and haemostatic[4, 7, 14, 21, 218]. It has been used in the treatment of jaundice, gravel and kidney stones[4]. Both the roots and the seeds have been used to stem haemorrhages[4]. A paste of the root is applied to set dislocated bones[272]. The plant is depurative and stomachic[7, 14, 21, 218]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant[9]. It is used in the treatment of spasms and skin ailments[9].
Other Uses
Cleanser;  Dye;  Polish.

Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots, they do not need a mordant[168]. A grey-blue dye is obtained from the leaves and stems[106]. An infusion of the stems is used as a polish for bamboo and wicker furniture and also for silver[53, 238]. The juice of the plant removes stains from linen[14] and also ink stains (but not ball-point ink) from white material[53, 238]. It is sometimes sold as 'essential salt of lemon'[4].
Cultivation details                                         
A very easily grown and tolerant plant, it succeeds in most soils[37], preferring a moist moderately fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position[200]. Shade tolerant[12]. Established plants are tolerant of considerable neglect, surviving even in dense weed growth[K]. Sorrel has been used since ancient times as a food and medicinal plant[244]. It is still occasionally cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties[183]. The plant stops producing leaves when it flowers in the summer, regrowing after the seed has set. Plants also usually die down in the winter. Cutting down the flowering stem will encourage the growth of fresh young leaves[4]. 'Blonde de Lyon' has large, only slightly acid leaves and is much less likely to flower than the type[200]. This means that the leaves of this cultivar are often available all through the summer and are often also produced throughout the winter, especially if the winter is mild[200, K]. A food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterfly, it is a good plant to grow in the spring meadow[24]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - sow spring in situ. Leaves can be harvested within 8 weeks from sowing. Division in spring. Division is very simple at almost any time of the year, though the plants establish more rapidly in the spring. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, ensuring that there is at least one growth bud on each section of root. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.
Related Plants                                         
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Rumex abyssinicusSpinach Rhubarb10
Rumex acetosellaSheeps Sorrel, Common sheep sorrel43
Rumex alpinusAlpine Dock, Munk's rhubarb42
Rumex angiocarpusCommon sheep sorrel10
Rumex aquaticusRed Dock, Western dock13
Rumex arcticusArctic Dock21
Rumex arifoliusMaiden Sorrel10
Rumex berlandieriamamastla10
Rumex browniiSwamp Dock20
Rumex bucephalophorusred dock10
Rumex conglomeratusSharp Dock, Clustered dock12
Rumex crispusCurled Dock, Curly dock23
Rumex daiwoosour dock12
Rumex dentatustoothed dock11
Rumex gmelinii 10
Rumex graminifoliusGrassleaf sorrel10
Rumex hastatus 22
Rumex hydrolapathumGreat Water Dock11
Rumex hymenosepalusCanaigre, Canaigre dock22
Rumex japonicus 20
Rumex longifoliusdooryard dock11
Rumex maritimusGolden Dock12
Rumex mexicanusMexican Dock12
Rumex nepalensis 12
Rumex obtusifoliusRound-Leaved Dock, Bitter dock12
Rumex occidentalisWestern Dock11
Rumex patientiaHerb Patience31
Rumex paucifoliusFewleaved Dock, Alpine sheep sorrel10
Rumex pulcherFiddle Dock10
12
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
17200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment                                         
 
Paulo B.
Jun 27 2011 12:00AM
The plant has quite an interesting flavor, the leaves are edible and have a lemon taste and a good texture. Still more interesting, is to cut the reddish flowering stem and suck the juice from it: it tastes not only lemony but also sweeter. Still, its not the kind of thing that you would want to eat a lot.
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Subject : Rumex acetosa  
             
                                        
                                                                                 
                                                                                 
   
 

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