What is Wood Sorrel and How Do You Use It?


FR: Alleluia, Oxadile blanche, Petit oseille, Surette GER: Sauerklee IT: Acetosella

SP: Acederilla, Oxadile blanca BOT: Oxalis acetosella FAM: Oxalidaceae ILL: Plate 7, No. 4

A common wild plant of woods and damp shady places, it has white flowers streaked with fine purplish lines. The leaves are clover-shaped, light sensitive, and hinged; and they close against the stem at night or in bad weather. Some say that this is the true shamrock, the national emblem of Ireland, but the Irish usually nominate another plant for this distinction.

What is Wood Sorrel and How Do You Use It? Photo Gallery

The wood sorrel contains a great deal of oxalic acid, about an ounce in ten pounds of leaves. (Oxalis is from the Greek for sour or acid and acetosella is from the Latin acetum, vinegar.) Oxalic acid is poisonous in quantity (we know it as a chemical used for removing ink stains) and cattle grazing in woods on wood sorrel can become ill; it can even kill sheep. Oxalic acid or its salts also occur in rhubarb leaves, as is well-known. Less well-known is that it occurs in spinach, garden sorrel, and many other vegetables. Thus, one can safely eat wood sorrel in the quantity one would use for a salad or sauce. It can replace garden sorrel in salads or in soup, and Gerard, the famous Elizabethan herbalist, says that it makes ‘a better greene sauce than any other herbe whatsoever’. Since wood sorrel is also decorative, it makes a useful dual-purpose plant to grow in the garden.

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