Sorrel, an herb sometimes used as a vegetable, imparts a sour, lemon taste suitable for culinary use. This is just one benefit, because sorrel provides high quantities of vitamins and minerals. Eating sorrel does present some dangers, too, so understand the possibility risks to your health before including it in your diet.
You can use both French sorrel and garden sorrel to add flavor to soup, salads and casseroles, although choose French sorrel for a milder lemon taste; garden sorrel has a more acidic aspect. Both varieties of sorrel pair well with egg dishes, depending on your palate. Leaves of this tender spring green are often used fresh; however, you can also cook them down -- this produces leaves similar to the consistency of cooked spinach. A classic culinary preparation of this vegetable combines fresh sorrel with chicken stock, heavy cream, butter, eggs and onions for cream of sorrel soup.
Sorrel, both garden and French varieties, offers a variety of nutritional boons. A 3.5 oz. serving of sorrel contains 42 calories and 0.7 g of fat, making this tender green a good choice for low-calorie, low-fat diets. The majority of the calories in sorrel derive from carbohydrates, with 6.5 g per portion. You also get 2.3 g of protein. One serving is an excellent source of vitamin A, a nutrient good for eye health, and is 238 percent of the daily recommended intake. Eat sorrel to meet your daily vitamin C requirements as well; one serving provides 113 percent of the quantity you need each day. Additionally, including a serving of this green in your meal plan introduces 32 percent of your daily riboflavin and lesser amounts of thiamin, niacin, phosphorus and iron.
Garden sorrel may provide therapy for cold sores. A study published in the January 2011 issue of the journal “Antiviral Research” notes that extracts from the leaves of sorrel contain oligomeric and polymeric proanthocyanidins and flavonoids. In laboratory testing, these compounds reduced the spread of the herpes simplex virus type-1, the variety that causes cold sores or fever blisters. Additional studies are needed to determine if these findings bear out in humans. Consult your doctor before eating sorrel for any medical reason.
Health Dangers of Oxalic Acids
Sorrel contains high amounts of oxalic acid, the main component of kidney stones. You may need to avoid eating sorrel if you are prone to developing these stones; talk to your physician for a recommendation on this food. Additionally, it can also kick up stomach acid, which can worsen heartburn, and it also has a diuretic effect.
When cooking sorrel, do not use cast iron or aluminum cookware. Cast iron skillets and pots are verboten because the oxalic acid in this green reacts with the metals to produce a metallic flavor in the sorrel that makes it inedible. When using aluminum, the acids in this food may allow potentially toxic quantities of aluminum ions to escape from the cookware.