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Red Sorrel

Red Sorrel

Red sorrel is obtained from the homonymous plant (Rumex acetosa L.) which is a herbaceous, perennial plant, and whose most frequent name is that of abrupt grass.

Origins and History –
Red sorrel is a very common plant in Italy, easy to find and collect.
This plant boasts astringent, diuretic and coolant properties, so much so that it can also be used to prepare a drink useful for fever.
Due to these characteristics, it is likely that it has been used since ancient times even if the news in this sense is not very abundant.
However, sorrel was already known as an officinal plant in ancient times, so much so that the Egyptians and ancient Romans used it as a dressing for chicken broths with tomatoes and lentils. It is thanks to Charlemagne that he intensified his cultivation in the gardens of the monastic cloisters and spread more. Medieval doctors used it to treat plague and cholera and attempts were also made to treat scurvy, a condition resulting from the absence of vitamin C.
It is a very widespread plant especially in northern Italy.
If by observing the shamrock plant one realizes that the leaflets are closed again, it means that the storm is near.
It was undoubtedly already used in the Middle Ages, when the coloring of dishes was given great importance and often in the recipes the indication of the most appropriate color also appears. Eight were the favorite colors. As for greenery, the cooks relied on the use of vinegar leaves, as well as parsley and spinach.
Widely used in French catering, both the leaves are collected from this plant, especially in the spring period when they are still young and tender, and the fresh stems that are picked especially between May and June.

Description –
Red sorrel is a perennial herbaceous plant, equipped with a large root, from which, in spring, an erect, simple or slightly branched stem of a reddish color develops that can reach a height of one meter.
The leaves are of two types: The basal ones form a rosette and have a long petiole. The shape is of the astatine type. Those arranged along the stem are sessile and have no stalk. Branchy inflorescence, with erect branches.
The flowers are divided into masculine, reddish in color, arranged in bundles on a small slender panicle, and feminine. Flowering begins in late spring and lasts all summer (June to August).
The fruit is an achene covered with persistent petals that take on a rusty red color.

Active principles –
Red sorrel is a plant that contains vitamin C, iron oxalate, oxalic acid and iron.
Among the active ingredients of sorrel, we find above all vitamin C (80 mg / 100 g which represents half of the daily requirement), calcium and potassium oxalates, oxalic, tartaric and tannic acid, anthraquinones, but also starch, mucilage and oils . Calcium oxalate is the substance that gives it that acidic taste. It also contains phosphates.

Properties and Uses –
Red sorrel is a plant with diuretic, refreshing, anti-inflammatory properties, being rich in oxalates and anthraquinones. It has moderate emmenagogic and stomachic properties.
Plant to avoid for those suffering from stones, arthritis, gout, rheumatism, hyperacidity. In case of high ingestion of raw leaves, poisonings with kidney lesions have been found in children. Incompatibility with mineral waters and copper containers.
Rubbed on the skin, sorrel is an excellent remedy for the bubbles caused by nettles and often the two plants grow in the same places.
This plant has a sour taste and is used in addition to fresh salads, spinach and cooked vegetables in general. The leaves can be eaten fresh in small quantities. A sauce is also prepared to accompany fish and meat. The hortensis variety, which is the cultivated one, contains less oxalates.
When the plant comes up in the spring, the first shoots are excellent in mixed salads (but in this case use a little vinegar and lemon because the plant itself is quite acidic) or boiled and fried, but they are also excellent for soups, soups and fillings. Someone also uses them instead of spinach: in this case they must be steamed and served as a side dish. They are also appreciated in omelettes and still as a side dish for meat and fish.
If desired, young stems can also be cooked, or they can be eaten raw in mixed salads where they add that citrusy touch so pleasant that you can give up the use of vinegar or lemon.

Preparations –
Red sorrel is a plant whose harvest must be done in May – June, before the complete flowering.
The leaves are eaten fresh as a mild purifying, or an infusion of 30 g of roots is used per liter of water. It is used to treat acne, oily skin and insect bites, using a decoction of 15 g of fresh leaves per 1 l of water, and drinking two cups a day, always between meals. With the decoction leaves a poultice is prepared, useful for treating abscesses. For external use, as a foot bath to promote circulation and decongestion, a decoction of 50 g is prepared for 2 l of water then combined with the water from the foot bath.
In the kitchen you can prepare a sauce using the following ingredients: 40 gr. of butter and 400 gr. of sorrel:
you need to clean the sorrel well and, after drying it, chop it perpendicularly. In the meantime, heat 40 gr. butter in a pan; once melted pour 400 gr. of sorrel and salt to taste. Once the vegetation water has evaporated, the sauce is ready. It is used to garnish salmon dishes.
A further elaboration provides, always in the pan in which the butter has been melted with the sorrel, the addition of liquid cream; add salt and pepper to taste and reduce in volume.
With this plant you can also prepare a cream. The ingredients are:
– a small onion,
– 400 grams of sorrel,
– half a hectogram of butter,
– a quarter of a liter of milk,
– an egg red,
– salt, pepper and nutmeg.
For the preparation, it is necessary to chop the sorrel leaves and the spring onion and let everything dry in the butter, then adding the milk to a boil. Filter all the contents of the pan in a sieve and then put it back on the fire, adjusting it with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Before serving, pour the egg yolk into it.
However the recipes based on this plant are innumerable and also depend a lot on local traditions.

Guido Bissanti

Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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