Top of the Crops - Sorrel

Growing Sorrel in a Polytunnel

Sorrel is a useful perennial herb with a slightly lemony tang that makes a great addition to a perennial section of a polytunnel. Sorrel is easy to grow and, as long as it is well-watered throughout the year, will come back year after year, making a wonderful addition for soups, salads and other kitchen recipes.

Sowing and Growing Requirements for Sorrel

Sorrel is easy to grow from seed, which can be sown any time between February and July. Seeds should be sown in pots at a depth of around 1cm and left in a light position to germinate. When large enough to handle, you should divide the roots and give each seedling its own 5cm pot. In late spring, the sorrel can be planted out into its final growing position, or grown on in larger pots. Of course it is also possible to simply wait until the soil has warmed sufficiently in your area and then sow the seeds in the soil directly, where they are to grow. You can also buy sorrel as a young plant, in which case these can be planted out between April and August.

Sorrel will like a sunny spot in well-drained soil but will do best with a little shade in the warmer months and so can good for under-planting beneath taller crops. It is important to water plants often, especially during the summer.

When sorrel plants throw up flower stalks, nip these off to prevent your sorrel from running to seed and to prolong the period of harvest. Top growth will die back in autumn but should regrow the following year as long as the roots have not become waterlogged and rotted over the winter.

Divide sorrel plants every couple of years in spring or autumn and this will ensure that the plants remain productive. Avoid too much congestion but consider sowing sorrel alongside a range of other herbs and salad greens for use in salads.

Harvesting Sorrel

Sorrel is best used fresh and picked by hand just before you plan to use it in the kitchen. You can be harvesting sorrel right through from spring to early autumn. The young leaves closest to the tips of the shoots will generally have a better taste than the larger leaves further down the stems. There are different varieties to try including French sorrel, common sorrel, red veined sorrel and Silver Shield, which are all delicious as well as interesting as ornamental plants, with their different foliage.

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