Sow sorrel now for an easy, good-looking and tasty herb 

The Telegraph's no-dig allotmenteer provides weekly advice on how to grow food yourself

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Bunch of fresh sorrel
Bunch of fresh sorrel Credit: Alamy 

Once, on my allotment, I noticed a new weed had sprouted in a spot I’d only hand-weeded the week before. At first I wondered what it was, then it came to me… bloody sorrel! Also known as red-veined sorrel, this is a particularly useful visitor, an easy perennial herb to grow, returning year after year for no effort.

For those with shady plots, patios or balconies, this is an edible herb worth trying because it can grow in some shade alongside mints, chard and lettuce. I moved the self-sown volunteer to my shaded herb bed, where it’s grown happily ever since.

Sorrel leaves have a leafy but lemony acidic tang – much like the unrelated common wood sorrel (sorrel coming from “sour”) – best in small quantities alongside other ingredients for flavour. It works well with fish and chicken dishes, added toward the end of cooking, chopped as a garnish. I like to mix the young leaves into salads, too, or cooked as one of the many spinach substitutes.

To grow your own, sow from the start of March, 5mm deep, where you’d like the plant to grow (order seeds now from chilternseeds.co.uk). You’ll find it grows rapidly, leaves are ready to harvest when plants look of reasonable size (about 10 or more leaves). Sorrel can be grown in pots 20-30cm wide, using peat-free compost kept well watered – it likes moisture. Pick young leaves for the best flavour and cut off flower spikes, these make leaves tougher and doing so prevents prolific self-seeding. Sorrel can be a weed if you don’t control the seeds, its other nickname, “bloody dock”, reveals its weedy family roots.

There is a regular green-leaved sorrel but it’s the red-veined I’d introduce, as beautiful in your garden as on your plate.

 

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