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06 April 2009


sorrel in the garden

I didn't know what this was when we saw it in the garden.

The garden. I should phrase that more carefully, before those of you reading might think we are early planners with green thumbs. Today may have been warm in western Washington, but it was one of the first days of rolling down the windows as we drove around the island, music playing, the baby blinking against the breeze in her eyes. The skies have slanted grey for months, the rain coming down, hard. Even the most experienced gardeners don't have much blooming, yet.

And we are certainly not the most experienced of gardeners. In fact, we know nothing.

I have this working theory: life keeps you humble when you try to learn something about which you know nothing, or at least very little. No matter how good you are at one activity, if you fumble and falter in the face of something new, you're never going to walk around with a swelled head. And so I take on these little projects, a new passion that fills me and threatens to knock vigorously from the inside until I pay attention.

This spring, I want to start using film again, instead of digital in the camera. That scares me. So many blurry photos. But I love the imperfections of film, the wonky stripes, and the rich textures. Digital is starting to feel a little too shiny for my taste.

But the biggest lesson, the one I feel like I'll be learning -- and humbled by -- the rest of my life? I want to learn how to garden. As Lisa wrote in this inspiring photo essay (and the conversations that followed it), "If there's a heaven, I hope it smells like basil and dirt."

As much as I love buying vegetables directly from the farmers, I cannot wait to pluck carrots from the black dirt and run them into the kitchen for dinner.

Of course, we don't know what we're doing, so there's no guarantee there will be anything edible this year. But we'll try.

(And if you have suggestions on how to start, fire away.)

No, the garden surrounding our house was, in part, already here. The landlords of this house we are renting lived here before us, for years. And they built raised beds, planted rose bushes and raspberry canes, pruned the giant cherry tree for its health, and created herb beds. We have volunteer strawberry plants, a fennel bush, baby apple trees, and bulbs bursting from the earth all over the yard. We are, in a word, lucky.

Still, we didn't know what this stretching leafy green was, until we ate some. Danny reached down and plucked half a leaf, then popped it in his mouth. "Hm. A little lemony." And then he scrunched up his face. "Peppery. Like arugula. More acidic." We looked at each other. "Sorrel."

(And then we googled it, to be sure.)

So we have sorrel.

Later that evening, Danny sliced some up and flash-sauteed it with a little olive oil, and some onions. The leaves melted into a dark khaki green softness. He finished the puree in the blender, and then dolloped it over the first halibut cheeks of the season. Roasted potatoes and fresh coleslaw made the meal the best one of the spring so far.

But there are more to come. And more with sorrel. Any suggestions? Let's all help each other out.


At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Sho said...

Egg salad with chopped sorrel, served on simple potato skins (no, not the TGI Friday's variety,) with goat's cheese on top.


At 10:20 PM, Blogger Rina said...

My mother in law makes a fantastic sorrel soup, this link ( has a few different recipes.

We had beautiful day where I am, too. Hoping it continues a little farther into the week!

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Amanda on Maui said...

I'm starting with a bunch of herbs in pots. I'm growing a ton of garlic, and I've planted them a month apart so that I'll have it year round (If I keep up with it). The bf's brother has promised a raised bed garden. He actually brought around some carpets to kill the lawn, but changed his mind on that plan due to the fact that our soil is only a foot deep here on the side of the volcano. LOL

My tip, and what I've learned from losing some seeds, is to be consistent in your watering. I wasn't and so my Sweet Chen Basil never grew. *pout* I'm trying again though.

Oh, and compost if you don't already. You'll be glad you did.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Missy said...

Don't know much about sorrel, but have fun with the film! I've been doing it for the first time in years, since December, and it's so fun. And you go back to digital for the pics of sports and babies running around. :)

At 10:34 PM, Blogger Allegra said...

My mom made a delicious cool, yogurty soup with sorrel a while back. I don't have the recipe, but it must have included yogurt, sour cream, and maybe some lemon and garlic. Lovely, light, and springy.

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Leah said...

I'm thrilled about the garden, of course. And while I have a lot to say on the subject of pests, I will start with a happy suggestion: include some pineapple mint. Pineapple mint! Not only is it pretty, I can already imagine the giant grin you'll get on your face when you pluck a leaf off and pop it in your mouth.

But you know what I'm really excited about. You totally know. xo

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Elana said...

I'm in a lifelong kale rut (and enjoying it), however, this post makes me want to get some sorrel.

I'm thinking sorrel with scrambled eggs and goat cheese. Might just make make it for breakfast this weekend.

The garden sounds lovely!

At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you live in Washington I would recommend not wasting time by trying to grow plants from seeds. Buy small plants and start with those.

You might also want to try a topsy turvy. You can grow just about anything in them, not just tomatoes, and the green bucket you grow them upside down in acts as a mini greenhouse. GREAT!

As far as going back to film, you must go Holga then! I can’t wait to see holga photos of Little Bean or your new garden.

At 1:30 AM, Anonymous Linda from the UK said...

Omlettes! Wilt the sorrel in the pan with a little olive oil before adding the egss.
Gardening - so much advice on the web, so much to try, it can get confusing.
Some staples are easy to grow and the joy is having them fresh from the soil, and knowing that they have not been treated in any way. Salads, beans, onions and leeks are all easy.
Then there are the more tempermental/weather prone veg, that maybe you need a bit more experience for.
My advice would be to grow plenty of the tried and tested, so you learn quickly, and just a few of the more challenging to start. That way you will be assured of some success and, hopefully, not everything will fail!!

At 4:33 AM, Blogger gfe--gluten free easily said...

I don't know sorrel yet, but what fun to find food like that to figure out and try! I know you guys will have such fun with your gardening efforts. We are always learning and making mistakes ... and that's a good thing. :-)


At 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best garden we ever had was when we used turkey compost from the organic turkey farm next door to us. Our plants were big and strong with no work from us. Gardening is really easy, don't be intimidated. Growing veggies is much easier than houseplants, the sun and the soil do all of the work for you. Find your local turkey or chicken farm, get some compost and you'll have a great garden.

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Hannah said...

I've never had it, hoping to see some at the farmer's market.

At 5:38 AM, Blogger sweetpea said...

I tried a potted herb garden last summer and had mixed results. My cilantro all went to seed within days, the chives never really grew. I had abundant parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme and enough basil to end up with 20 cups of pesto which I froze in late September. Since I don't actually have a yard of my own, potted herbs was the only way to go. I am tempted by the upside down "topsy turvy" tomato plant idea! It was great fun to have fresh herbs to snip and use all summer long. I frequently used clippings in a vase rather than flowers for a center piece on my table. We tried to move everything except the basil inside, using a plant light, only the rosemary survived. Starting with small plants was the way to go for me, rather than seeds. Keep us posted on your efforts and results!

At 5:58 AM, Blogger babyjenks said...

hmmm, i haven't played with sorrel much, but perhaps a take on pesto would work. with feta.

as for gardening, i miss the northwest and the gardens i had there. it sounds like you did indeed luck out with the gardens that are already at your house. if there isn't an artichoke yet, go buy a starter and plant one or two. they are perennial in your locale and i always was so tickled to harvest my own artichokes. they grow bigger and bigger each year.

enjoy the garden, dig the dirt, revel in growth.

~ sabe

At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Summer said...

I am new to gardening too.

I tried square foot gardening last year, with just one box, and it worked well for us. The technique has been used all over the world. It is manageable. Less work and less weeding.

At 6:50 AM, Anonymous SusanLC said...

Gardening is so rewarding.You get to exercise, get your hands dirty, experience defeat and try again, and eat the rewards of your efforts. It isn't always easy, and I have a degree in Horticulture! It seems some seeds (wow-illiteration) don't play nicely. That's why people can't give away their tomatoes in late August and they will pay a king's ransom for the rare stuff at the farmer's market. To Amanda on Maui-my purple basil seedlings are barely holding together. Thus, basil seedlings are one of those temperamental plants that are challenging to keep alive.

Here in Illinois, I had grand plans of planting peas and spinach last week, but it has been too cold and rainy to get the job done. They taste better when grown in the cool spring, but if you wait too late to get them in the ground-then it suddenly turns hot and they become worthless.

Shauna, may I recommend what many regard as the best gardening book:
Vegetable Gardening Basics, by B. Bruce Johnstone and Elwood H. Brindle. It's copyright is 1970; but even though it is old, it is a gem. With information for preparing the soil,composting,dealing with insects, harvesting and storing, etc., it should be a classic in everyone's home library. You may be able to find it at the library.

At 6:52 AM, Blogger Mel in Mo said...

You make me miss Washington so! I grew up in Tacoma overlooking the Narrows Bridge (there was only one then). We used to take the ferry from Pt. Defiance Park over to Vashon Island and always had so much fun! I love your pics of the driftwood beaches! One of my most fond memories is eating rubbarb out of the neighbor's yard. Plant some & it will grow back year after year! Beautiful ruby red stalks & huge green leaves. Pretty & yummy! Who could ask for more?

At 7:08 AM, Blogger jbeach said...

I don't have any sorrel recipes, or gardening tips, for that matter. I tried my first roofdeck garden last year and didn't produce much. Some city critters gobbled up our shoots...
I just wanted to say how awesome your garden and yard sound! Lucky indeedy!!

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Wide Lawns said...

Last summer in Iowa I visited an organic farm for dinner and we had a sorrel soup. The cook said she picked the sorrel, sauteed it with a little onion in butter, then added chicken broth and peeled white potatoes. She was very insistent about the potatoes. When the potatoes were done she pureed the soup and seasoned it. It was simple, soft and wonderful.

At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a child growing up in England, my mother, who was a fabulous cook, made a delicious sorrel soup (unfortunately I don't have her recipe). The amazing thing for me though, is that I have very few memories of my early childhood in that country, but I distinctly remember that tart soup. A strange taste for a young child to enjoy.

Am on an island in the Sound too.

At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could go Indian. Saute it with onions in little oil, add cooked lentils(toor dal),salt,turmeric and chilli powder and you have a tart soup to dunk your French baguette or Indian naan into.
Or pickle it.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger I Heart Kale said...

Throw sorrel in the food processor with plenty of good olive oil and goat cheese and pepper and a pinch of salt for a really delicious spread (or something you can just dollop in a bowl of soup to make it extra-special).

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Sunny said...

My mom does this great thing with sorrel. She chops it and mixes it with garlic, lemon and olive oil, then spreads it on top of salmon and roasts the whole lot. Delicious! I suppose you could grill it too on a cedar plank.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I've never had sorrel, I think it's time to change that.

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love puckery sour sorrel!!! Several years ago I planted sorrel from seed and now it is the first thing up in the spring, stretching its bright leaves to the sun, and the last thing to fade in winter.

It's my new favorite pesto. I like sorrel best raw, so I make the pesto with fresh leaves, just like basil pesto except with sorrel (of course) and a pinch of cayenne for a little heat to balance the flavor. I LOVE it smeared on toast, potatoes, fish, chicken, dolloped into creamy soups and brothy soups, as a dip for veggies or chips, etc, etc. And you can make a large batch while the sorrel is tender in spring or fall and freeze little jars for any time.

Here are the proportions I use:
2 cups fresh sorrel leaves
1 T. garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup romano or parmesan
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes, opt
2 T. orange juice or balsamic vinegar, opt (I like it well enough without either of these)

Because the bright green fades so quickly when heated, I like to chop and add a handful to soups after serving, to stir in for tang and texture. And it's delicious in sandwiches and as an flavor accent in salads.

Have fun with your garden, and smell the dirt.

Kris in Virginia

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Diane said...

I've been in my house five years now, and I bought it to garden. It has indeed been a great learning experience. I have a LOT of shade (including a 60' tall Doug Fir), so vegies are hard, but I learned over the first two years what will and will not grow here. The biggest piece of advice I have is DON'T Pull out anything the first year. Wait to see what happens. I cut down three out of four of some ugly shrubs right after I moved in, only to find the one remaining one blooming six months later in June with the most gorgeous pink flowers.

Sorrel: I have a plant called "bloody dock" growing in my front yard. It is a kin of sorrel that is spectacular - red and green variegated leaves that my Mom describes as "looking like a rattlesnake skin," and that I think looks like psychedelic beet greens. It's good in stir-fries.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Elizabeth W said...

Hie thee to the used book store for a copy of Solomon's "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades". The particular edition doesn't matter too much. The author has some biases that don't match exactly with the non-commercial farmer, but you'll be able to figure that out. This book took my spouse from zero gardening experience to amazing in only a couple years.

Get on the mailing list for Territorial Seeds. It's too late to be thinking about most summer crops from seed, but you can garden year round here. We're just taking the last of this winter's rutabagas and carrots from their beds; parsnips finished up a couple weeks ago. You'll be in for a treat when the summer catalog appears this winter -- so many descriptions of tomato varieties to read to each other and the wee one.

If you've got a spot that's going to hold some heat, plant yourself a lemon cucumber plant or two. Everybody loves them but hardly anyone has them.

This is a wonderful hobby. You will be amazed at how helpful your little one will soon be in the garden.

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No new suggestions for using sorrel. Just a word of warning... it is insidious. It never dies and will spread without any effort on your part. Don't move any of the soil near it to any other part of your garden. We had a patch of it before we started construction. Every other plant in the vicinity died during our home construction except the sorrel. It was never watered (not even rain for 8 months), it was crushed, rolled over and buried repeatedly yet, it came back and then spread. I'm beginning to think the only way to deal with it is to have a bon fire over it and totally sterilize the ground.
Good luck managing it.
Best, Cindy

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A celebrated French restaurant, Freres Troisgros in Roanne, France became famous for their recipe for Salmon with Sorrel Sauce. Here is a UK version. Looks like a lot of sorrel here, but probably a typo so adjust accordingly. I had it many years ago at their very simple and wonderful restaurant, across from the train station, and have never forgotten it.

Salmon with sorrel sauce, serves 4

900g/2lb piece of centre-cut wild salmon, filleted and skinned (keep the bones and skin)

1 small wine glass white wine

1 small wine glass of water

2 tbsp dry vermouth

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

90g/312 oz sorrel leaves, trimmed of stalk and central rib, coarsely chopped

400ml/34 pint whipping cream

25g/1oz butter

a squeeze of lemon juice

salt and freshly ground white pepper

Put the chopped up salmon bones and skin, white wine, water and vermouth in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan with the tiniest pinch of salt. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes and strain into a clean pan through a fine sieve. Add the shallots and reduce the liquid until syrupy and almost fully reduced.

Meanwhile, season the salmon fillets and cut into four equal pieces. Heat a non-stick or well seasoned, heavy bottomed frying pan and smear with the merest amount of oil. Fry the salmon on both sides until lightly coloured and just cooked through - about 3-4 minutes per side. Keep warm in a serving dish in a low oven.

Add the cream to the reduced wine/vermouth mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce until thickened, velvety and unctuous. Throw in the sorrel and cook for about 15 seconds, until it has changed from green to a sort of deep khaki colour. Swirl in the butter in small pieces until fully amalgamated, and add the lemon juice. Correct the seasoning and pour over the salmon

At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Allison said...

We have our second kitchen garden started and the only sage words I can pass along would be to start small while you have a small person.

Two things we became acutely aware of last year: 1) the bugs are laying in wait and will win if you don't keep up a steady battle and 2) watering, weeding and pruning need to go on regardless of whatever else is happening in your life. We do organic here and last year we were totally blown away by how many insects descended on our plants. Potato beetles, squash borers, aphids, leaf hoppers and more came out of the woodwork. We learned a lot in that first year of gardening, and are applying it this year, but we know it'll still take a lot of work to combat the vermin.

With regard to the watering and pruning etc, it was a challenge for me last year and in previous years to tend both the plants and our little person at the same time. Between naps, meals, laundry and all the other essential minutia of tending a family, I'd often have a hard time giving the plants the level of attention that they needed in order to do well. The basil getting a drink of water or whatever was less important to me than getting the baby his nap, so after a certain point I let the plants go. (mind you my husband was away from the house during the day, so having someone to tag-team with would make it a different experience)

Now our boy is four and is not compelled to do all the things he used to do when he was younger, like to eat mud, crawl into danger and unplant the things I just put in the ground. These days he's old enough that he doesn't need a snack just when I get my hands dirty, get hot and cranky in the sun or do poo-poo in the yard in classic potty training fashion.

In short, gardening while parenting a very small person can be hard, but as they get bigger it gets a whole lot easier, less stressful and more fun for everyone.

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never tasted sorrel... I think I'll go find some seeds...
Gardening advice 1.) Plant marigolds. They're a natural insect repellant.
2.) Buy ladybugs if you can find them. They may be cute, but they also kill all sorts of nasty pests.
3.) Praying Mantis... this one creeps me out, but they also kill nasty garden eating pests (like grass hoppers)...
Other than that, veggies are hit and miss, even from year to year. My husband got a fabulous organic gardening book with wonderful pictures for christmas two years ago. It's been so helpful with it's tips. We're playing with companion planting this year... (never plant the peas next to the onion, DO plant the corn and beans in the same spot if you can...)
Have fun, and enjoy the soil. Next year, watch the little one in the dirt. I'm having to make sure that my little one doesn't eat it this year.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Gardening is an individual, highly personal process, and involves lots of trial and error. That said: plant radishes, because they grow faster than everything else and it's only about a month or so from seed to "Look! I made this thing that I am now eating!"

Personally I always loved potatoes but we had to try lots of different varieties to find one -- the Kennebec -- that would grow in our soil.

I don't have a yard now, but if I did, I'd plant hot peppers, green beans (tall ones, on poles), snow peas, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash. And radishes for instant gardening gratification.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Nova said...

I've never had sorrel but am clearly going to have to try it! Gardening is so much fun. You will likely make some mistakes as you learn but there is nothing more rewarding than playing in the dirt and getting fresh food for your troubles. Even if that fresh food is tiny nubby carrots. My favorite books are Gardening for Dummies and the Vegetable Gardener's Bible. I like raised beds the best since they are the easiest to maintain. We also have a garden gourmet backyard composter which is compact and gives us great compost. Good luck and have fun! I can't wait to read about how it's going.

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Kate Winslow and Guy Ambrosino said...

hi- enjoying your book and blog. for gardening, if you have not already seen this, Gourmet Magazine just started a Gardening column by an ex-staffer and friend of me and my wife (who also works at Gourmet.) here is the link.


At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Julialuli said...

We, too, bought property with fruit trees and fruit bushes and in the spring, found all sorts of interesting things popping up. But it got overwhelming, learning that most things had been neglected. Then I just froze.

So we eat the knorkly apples and pick the few blueberries we get until I can tackle each bit. I really want a veggie garden, but with the terrible tick problem in our yard and the deer who will eat everything, I'm doing Earthboxes. Sort of gardening for idiots. What can't I live without? Tomatoes, herbs, cukes and lots and lots of basil.

Then, I'll feel like I have a garden and I'll have the courage to tackle the rest of the "garden" bit by bit.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Ragouty Anne said...


Jamie Oliver doesn't need much of a plug, but his new book, "Jamie at Home" has a lot of advice (and beautiful photos) of his home garden.

Also, the best advice I ever got about gardening was once you get going (which takes a lot of work), make sure you take time to do a little, every day. That keeps you from having to do an overwhelming amount, on a few days. My father used to upkeep the herb garden by pouring himself a mint julep in the evening after work, then going out to the garden for the fresh mint sprig, and plucking any stray invaders he saw while he enjoyed his cocktail. It's not a bad way to garden :).

Also, zucchinis and yellow squash produce like mad. Be prepared.

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gardening in washington is a challenge and a blessing. start your peas now! so easy and so wonderful for small ones. my girl ate peas all summer when she was just around a year. strawberries are also really easy. you have to share some with slugs around here, but they feel satisfactory. if you haven't started tomato and pepper seeds it's best to buy them as starts. they need really early jumps on the season. it's nice to have them in the garden though. kale, collards, and chard are really really easy up here. i have done very bad things to my kale starts and they keep living somehow. it's amazing. (and you will have these plants for years!) maybe keep the squash plants to a minimum. you only need a few zuchinni plants for a whole family. (one that eats veggies regularly like yourself) if you have any backyard space, an edible mushroom ring is WONDERFUL to create in a shady spot. you can buy the spawn and just drop it down with some hay and sawdust. and lastly, a duck will take care of all your slug problems! and they are so sweet.
have a wonderful time in your garden. your daughter will cherish those first bites from your backyard when she's growing. just have fun. there are many triumphs and many downfalls in the pnw. just keep trying!

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Aubrey said...

This is our second year of gardening. We made raised beds (which I do think makes it all easier) and planted tomato, pepper, spinach, basil, rosemary, cilantro, and even had a bit of squash and cantaloupe. Our tomatoes and peppers we started from seed inside, but most of the other stuff we planted outdoors. We do live in South Carolina, though, which has a long growing season. I'd recommend finding a good locally written gardening book since that will have the most helpful information for where you live. It is wonderful, though, to take things you grow yourself and cook them and eat them. And I loved having fresh tomatoes from late May to October. Best of luck with the garden!

At 9:00 PM, Anonymous La Niña said...

I put in sorrel ten years ago, and it has never taken over any more space than it was in originally. Of course I cook with it often. One thing you must do in our lovely climate is: comb through it and remove and relocate all the snails and slugs that will turn it into a lacy, hole-covered bed and breakfast. I have to admit, I used to tolerate the snails, but now I "bowl" them down the driveway. "Stay off the sorrel or pay the price."

Like most folks, I made a sauce for salmon, and an incredible sorrel soup from Jerry Traunfeld's "Herbfarm" cookbook. Those are favorite spring treats. The spring salmon should start soon... the sorrel is growing in anticipation.

You will grow with your garden. It will grow with you. You will make mistakes, but I've discovered the grace of what I have called "divine neglect." Sometimes things work out not according to plan- so don't plan too much. Just dig it, water it, and weed and write.

"Weed and write" is my motto. I really hate weeding, though.


At 9:21 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

I'm so excited, and a little dizzy, from all the gardening and sorrel suggestions. Thank goodness we have a patch of sorrel, because I want to try everything!

Keep them coming. I'll come back for more specific comments. But I wanted to share this piece I just read in The New York Times about being a first-time gardener:

At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hang around here a lot, more than the food, for the way your love for everything shimmers through the words :) .. and gardening is only going to make that grow!:)
The only suggestion I'd have is.. start simple, with the easy to grow, hard to kill variety of plants- its a wonderful exercise in confidence-building, and of course, the food tastes so much better when you grow it yourself! Basil, mint, tomatoes, peppers- definitely !!

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Rochelle said...
go here for the best info on gardening in the northwest also go to garden girl for great info on gardening in raised beds also square foot gardening with Mel Bartholomew you'll be inspired!

At 9:12 AM, Anonymous julia said...

Main rule of gardening...stick it in the dirt. See if it grows. True there is a science to gardening but who are we to question the mystery of the seed?

At 9:12 AM, Blogger 3pennyjane said...

My Ukie father makes a ferocious sorrel soup, based on a traditional recipe. It's not for the faint of heart, as it looks almost exactly like pond dredgings, and it's a lot more work than other (fine and worthy) things that can be done with sorrel, but the mix of zippy sorrel and rich beef stock is worth the trouble. Herewith his version:
"There is not even a pretense of a recipe. Make a beef stock. I generally saute a chopped onion in vegetable oil, then sear the beef (plate beef, short ribs, a couple of marrow bones, also oxtails if you want a a more pronounced and funky flavor) in the same oil, add a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, a couple of carrots and a parsnip (optional), a couple of Knorr vegetable bouillon cubes, possibly five or six cloves of garlic (very much optional), and water to cover all of the above. Simmer for a couple of hours, occasionally skimming off the foam. Remove the onion and root veggies. Once the meat has pretty much cooked off the bones, discard the bones, cut up the meat and marrow, and return it to the stock. Add some waxy potatoes, then cook for 30 minutes or so. Add about two bunches of chopped sorrel. After the soup is heated through, adjust seasoning - salt & pepper, and citric acid added in very small increments if the soup does not seem sour enough to you. Allow to cool, preferably overnight, for the flavors to blend. Reheat, serve with chopped hard-boiled eggs and sour cream. Nota bene: you can use spinach and citric acid as a substitute for sorrel, but if you are going to do that, you may as well just have some Campbell's Cream of Mushroom instead."

At 12:26 PM, Blogger EponaRae said...

Ditto the Solomon book, all the suggestions to start slow and easy, and definitely plant at least one artichoke (choose the warmest spot in your garden:up against the house on the south side)...Feed the soil your landlords left you every year with compost and local manure. I too have had stellar results with poultry manure. Just make sure it is not fresh or 'hot'--it will kill your plants. Mulch, mulch, mulch. If you can find local straw, and I mean STRAW, not HAY, pile it deep to preserve moisture in the summer and prevent weed growth year-round. Straw seems to be the least attractive mulch for slugs. For your beloved carrots, start with globe or planet types this year. They grow fast and are less attractive to nematodes. To help repel these root-veggie-loving-larvae, plant those marigolds suggested above in amongst the carrots, and cover the bed with a floating row cover such as Remay until the leafy tops are about 6" tall. This keeps the adult flies from laying their eggs near the carrots in the first place. Ah, so much fun ahead for you! I've been gardening (and feasting in my gardens) in the PNW for 25 years, in rural and urban settings. The challenges vary wherever you go, likewise the joys! Perennials like berries, 'chokes and herbs are the backbone of every garden, they are always the first thing I plant in a new home. You are blessed by coming into a space so well established. Now get out there and have fun!
Oh--Sorrel--I grew up happily munching on wild sheep's sorrel. Once I was introduced to domestic French Sorrel as a garden herb, I was impressed by the delicacy of its flavor--definitely tamer than the wild cousin. It more than makes up for that with copious large leaves. So delicious in so many applications. One caution: In the heat of summer, sorrel will become too rich in oxalic acid to be safe for eating. Enjoy in the cool seasons only, 'K?

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Anna said...

I'm so excited for everyone who is starting a garden this year! I wish we had more green things growing here, but it will happen slowly and surely. I just wrote some simple suggestions for people who are starting a garden for the first time
if you are interested. Have fun!

At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of gardening! Our sorrel here is of the flower kind. Red flowers that make a fruity drink. With a little honey brandy in it. You will love watching your garden grow.

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Amber said...

The best mixed drink I have ever had in my life was a sorrel margarita at a wedding at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. (Best wedding food ever!) I don't have a recipe, but plan on trying to re-create it once the NYC greenmarkets are filled with greens again. It was muddled with limes and so bright tasting. My boyfriend and I couldn't stop talking about its amazingness. So good.

At 10:33 PM, Blogger LadyAnat said...

I've never heard of using sorrel in food, but it is a traditional xmas drink in Guyana. You dry the leaves for a few days, put them in a jar with water and some kind of sweetener (sugar, usually), add a little bit of mace, cover and let it sit for two or three days, strain and store in the fridge.

At 4:32 AM, Anonymous Margaret Roach said...

As I say over and again these last 25 or 30 years of experimenting outdoors myself and helping others do so, "You have to grow it to know it." Sounds like you've already realized that. And I was just invoking sorrel yesterday, longing for its lemony-sour taste, wondering where it had gone. Oops, another plant loss...starting over on the sorrel.

It's a "just do it" kind of thing, this gardening, not unlike cooking...go w/your gut, and your passion, and both the victories and the total fails will teach you. (But if you have any questions that an old dirt gardener can help with, you know where to holler.)

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In french, "avoir de l'oseille" (having sorrel)means having lots of money.When i see how generously my sorrel grows (with so little care) I feel rich.
I wrap fish fillets (any kind) with whole leaves (be generous), then put the fish on a bed of veggies (brocoli florets), add a splash of lemon juice and olive oil, salt, pepper! WOW!

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Someone might have said this already, but please please read "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades," by Steve Soloman. It is THE gardening book for our region.
Good Luck.

At 7:14 PM, Blogger Rachael Narins said...

I agree and disagree with should totally get a Holga (Look at the photography link on this page for an idea of how beautiful the pictures are.) and I disagree about growing from seed. You can totally do it! There is SO much information on the internet...don't be intimidated! (As if you would be.) There are a lot of really easy seeds to grow. Corn. Melons. Beans. Trust me.

As for the sorrel...I am growing three kinds and cannot get enough of it. My favorite thing though is sorrel sorbet scooped into (oh dear, I cannot spell this) Vichysoisse. To die for.

Good luck sweetie!


At 10:59 PM, Blogger Meg said...

Salmon (or halibut) with a sorrel sauce.

And on gardening? Hmm. Check out Territorial Seed's catalogue, as it has a fair amount of good advice for PNW gardeners.

Like: don't plant your tomatoes and basil until after Memorial Day. And don't (seriously) plant tomatoes in the same spot two years running (they're fussy up here, since it's not quite warm enough, and prone to all kinds of blight when they don't get their way with the weather). I'm with anon 11:26 (ish): at least get your tomatoes, basil and summer herbs from plants, not seed.
Plant radishes now, before it gets too hot. They are, indeed, gratifying, since they come in so quickly, but they get too bite-y in hot weather. And they're good with butter or olive oil, just yanked from the garden and scrubbed off.

Don't plant borage. At all. Unless you have a great fondness for weeding.

Grow some lemon verbena. It's an interesting herb that's hard to get in stores or at farmers' markets, and it generally comes back (after looking very, very dead).

Artichokes are fun to grow, and do well here, but best to get from a plant, as something like 1/3 or so of the seeds are sterile.

Green beans get planted around the same time as tomatoes and basil; bush beans are easy and good.

Cinderella pumpkins are fun to grow. You might not eat it, but you can justify it because You're Doing It For Your Child's Halloween. That, um, might be the justification I used. The kids? Had no interest in the stupid pumpkins and liked the ones from the store better. It was still fun.

And although you DID ask for advice, it's probably time for me to pipe down. Good luck. Enjoy.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Lauren Denneson said...

I don't think I have ever heard of Sorrel before...I love it when the world surprises me with new things! Your garden sounds lovely and I'm glad you are thinking of trying your hands (or thumbs!) at gardening this year. We're doing container gardening right now because we live downtown Portland, but I have snuck a few pictures on my blog if you want to check out our pretty blueberry bushes and brussels sprouts sprouts!

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Claire said...

My family, also in Western WA, has a stake in a community garden between Woodinville and Bothell. There are a great number of these wonderful little gardens throughout our area, and it's a great place to start- you can get tips from more expereinced gardeners and work with really excellent soil (which is hard to come by in a land with so many pine trees!). So that's always an option, unless your property has really excellent soil to begin with.
Best of luck!

At 6:43 AM, Blogger Gluten free Kay said...

I like to use my sorrel for a quick sauce for white fish. Butter, reduced cream (I use goat milk these days,) chopped sorrel, salt and pepper.

I've had green sorrel in my garden for years. At the farmers market, I found a beautiful sorrel with red veins. It's still in the pot, but I can't wait to get it in the ground. I describe sorrel's flavor as "lemon spinach."

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

We are lanning our fist raised beds garden to make and nuture with our 3 & 5 year old. I will add sorrell to our list of herbs to plant. Now if we stop havig nights below freezing, maybe we cold plant the seed!

At 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like sorrel simply added to a spring salad, as I do most greens.

I didn't read all the posts, but one caught my eye--someone advised not planting borage. I on the other hand advise planting borage! It definitely reseeds itself, but if it grows where you don't want it the plants are easy to pull.

The wonderful thing about borage is the beautiful blue star shaped flowers which are edible and look and taste smashing on a salad along with gem marigolds, nasturtiums and other edible flowers. The flavor is a bit like cucumbers.

At 1:25 AM, Blogger heatherfly said...

Oh my, sorrel is everywhere all of a sudden.

I'd heard of it years back and been intrigued, but never come across any until a few weeks ago at the Ballard sunday market. I got all excited, until I saw that it was $15 a pound! I decided I wanted it anyway, but my partner, who'd never heard of it, was not so inclined (we're having money issues these days) towards the luxury. Feeling pressured, he bought it anyways, and then griped about it after.

And somehow suddenly, there we were, having a fight at the Farmer's Market. We don't fight often, so when we do it kind of traumatizes both of us. We didn't buy anything else at the market that day, and just went and sat on a bench in the little triangle park to talk it out.

We were stressed about money, of course, not about sorrel, and we made up sweetly before we even got home, even though the rest of the day was still sad for us. Later, my sweetie asked what I was planning to do with the "fight greens"--he'd gone all anti-sorrel on me!

"We'll have make-up soup." was my reply.

A few days later I inadvertantly came across a recipe for a green Borscht that called for sorrel, of all things. We adore borscht, so we decided this recipe was 'the one'.

I didn't even taste the sorrel leaves before-hand; I just forged ahead with the simple soup recipe, trusting that it would be right for us. The entire thing took less than 45 minutes, and was WONDERFUL! Oh, how we love this soup! We are now both confirmed sorrel enthusiasts.

I used chicken stock, added one parsnip, and went with the option to omit the flour, and instead enrich the soup with egg yolks stirred into sour cream. (Except I used yogurt, because I've discovered that the yogurt I buy is better than sour cream.)

It was so silky and comforting, just what a make-up soup should be.

Here is the link:,ukrainian_zelany_borshch.phtml

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous cathy said...

I've never seen sorrel but can you tell us how long it is safe to eat pokeweed??? I know its supposed to be edible but I'm worried about what age it gets poisonous. I'd buy all my greens at teh farmer's market but I'm trying to save up in case I get laid off soon :-( There is a veritable army of pokeweed growing across the street from me!!

At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your blog but never posted before. Right after reading here about sorrel, my husband came in from our community vegetable garden holding a handful of sorrel leaves. "Taste this" he said "It's fruity!" Neither of us have tasted anything quite like it before. I'm looking forward to trying it in salads.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Larissa said...

yes yes sorrel soup! my mom makes it from the sorrel in her yard and to me, it is spring in a bowl. its awesome. hers goes something like: sautee some onion in olive oil for a while, add leeks or garlic, or not, then add sorrel, till its a litle soft, then add broth, cook it for a while, blend it with the hand blender and add a littl milk or cream or almond milk or yogurt or whathave you and then serve it with maybe another dollop of yogurt/sour cream or better creme fraiche. and chives.

simplest bestest spring soup! or well. same soup with artichoke hearts is the OTHER one. or pea tendrils. or....

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Molly said...

Spring tonic soup! Sorrel, the first nettle shoots, watercress if you can find it,any other greens you can come up with. Cook them up in broth with onions and potatoes, add some cream at the end. Puree or not, depending on what you are looking for.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Alison said...

I found some at the FM and made a pasta sauce out of it. It's not really a pretty green after it's cooked, but it tasted pretty good. :)

At 10:23 PM, Blogger heatherfly said...

Oh, the link didn't publish properly! Let's try again:,ukrainian_zelany_borshch.phtml


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