Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America
A Complete Wild Food Guide
Season: Spring to Early Fall
Urban, Rural or Both: Both
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta). Known also as: Sourgrass, Common Yellow Woodsorrel, Yellow Woodsorrel, Common Yellow Oxalis, Lemon Clover, Upright Yellow-Sorrel.
This is one of many plants that has higher than average levels of oxalic acid, please see note here.
Since it is higher than average in Oxalic acid, I suggest not eating it raw, but if you do, keep the quantity very low. By the way, some people really dislike the taste of it. I find it tart and pleasant in very small quantities. Cooked is the way to go, and I also suggest using it as a spice in foods, not as a vegetable. The tartness will add some zing to foods, and the small amounts will not be harmful to the average person.
Growing this plant in your home garden:
I don't know, but I can't see why this would not establish at home if you have the right conditions - see "Habitat" below. Seeds gathered raked into top of soil should do the trick.
- Plant Size: Up to 30 cm (12 inches) high.
- Duration: Annual & Perennial
- Leaf Shape: Compound leaf made up of three heart shaped leaflets
- Leaf Phyllotaxis (Leaf Arrangement) on branch: Alternate
- Leaf Size: Each leaflet up to 2.0 cm (4/5 inches) wide
- Leaf Margin: Entire (smooth edged)
- Leaf Notes: Leaves look similar to Clover leaves, the main difference being that each leaflet of a Clover leaf is rounded with no indentation at the tip, while the Wood Sorrel leaf is greatly indented at the tip giving the characteristic heart shape. The leaves exhibit a trait called Nyctinasty which means, when it gets dark the leaf closes, then opens again in light. It closes by each leaflet folding along the central vein.
- Flowers: Yellow, five petalled. Diameter of entire flower is just a bit bigger than the diameter of each leaflet.
- Fruit: Reddish tan, oval with tip at one end, just over 1 mm long seed
- Habitat: Needs full sun. Likes well drained soil, does well on gravely, sandy land. Prefers loose alkaline soils that are either dry or moist but not wet. Can grow in soils that are low in nutrients. Does well where there is limestone gravels. In grassy areas.
- Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).
- Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
- USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
- The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.
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