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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

A Complete Wild Food Guide

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Sheep's Sorrel. (Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1992. Western wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. West Region, Sacramento.)

Season: Spring, Summer & Early Fall

Urban, Rural or Both: Both

Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella). Also known as: Field Sorrel, Red Sorrel, Sour Weed. This is not common where I live as the soils around me are neutral to quite alkaline and it prefers acidic soils. When I have found it, I will add a very little to food for flavor. This is a plant that should only be used in very small amounts as a flavoring, as it is high in oxalic acid. If used in small amounts as a flavoring, it does add a nice zest to the food taste. Young, finely chopped leaves are good in a salad, or put on top of a cooked meal.

This plant likes the same conditions as Blueberries, so if you know where there are Blueberries, you probably have this around somewhere in a spot where there is sufficient light.

Growing this plant in your home garden:

Not hard to grow if you have acidic soils. Just gather seed and spread where you want them, rake them in and tamp the ground. Not a great looking plant, or nutritious, and high in oxalic acid, so not something you'd want a lot of. Also, if you do grow it in the right conditions, it will spread rapidly by the roots. If after trying it, you want to grow some as an herb (it is unique and tasty), the best way might be to transplant one into a pot with acidic soil - it will colonize the whole pot. Make sure you cut off the seed heads before the seeds are mature if you don't want it to spread everywhere. You can make acidic soil by mixing in a lot of Pine or Spruce needles to the soil. And/or buy some gardening sulphur from a garden store and mix into the soil. Follow the instructions on the container for how much to mix in. Also, you can usually buy acidic soil from most garden centers.

For more detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Sheep's Sorrel page.


Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Sheep's Sorrel drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 653)


Sheep's Sorrel inflorescence. Note that the color can range from what you see here to redish in other pictures on this page. (Sheri Hagwood, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)


Sheep's Sorrel drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)


Sheep's Sorrel. Note the range of shapes and colors the plant can take. (Patrick J. Alexander, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)


Sheep's Sorrel leaf. Note the unique shape of the leaf base. (Patrick J. Alexander, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)


Sheep's Sorrel flowers up close. (Patrick J. Alexander, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

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Important Notes when Identifying
Some Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching

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