Sorrel

When I first saw the leafy green at the market in northeastern Hungary, I didn’t know what it was but I knew I wanted it. It was the spring of 1991 and I had gone there to teach English the previous summer. Through the winter months the only fresh vegetables available had been cabbage, potatoes, onions, and roots. The pile of greens on the vendor’s display looked very appealing. In my limited Hungarian, I asked what it was and how much. After the purchase, I knew I had what Hungarians call soska, but I needed to consult the dictionary to find out what English speakers call it.

The translation was sorrel which I had never had. After washing it and tasting, we enjoyed it as a salad green. Sorrel has a lemony zing which gets stronger as the weather warms. It is good as a salad green before it becomes overly tart. The most common way Hungarians prepared it was in a cream sauce with a good bit of sugar and then used instead of gravy over potatoes. We preferred it as a salad green and still usually enjoy it that way.

Sorrel is used in different ways in the kitchen. It can be a soup ingredient or served with fish. Sometimes it is listed as an herb rather than a leafy green.

In the garden, sorrel is a perennial. It isn’t particularly difficult to grow. An ideal spot is under a fruit tree or vine. Its green leaves are best enjoyed before trees get their leaves. In a sunny spot, it needs more water to make it through the summer. Sorrel can be started with seed and can be multiplied by dividing in the fall or early spring. It offers a unique flavor and for me a good memory.

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