Please remember that Forage Friday is only intended to be a conversation starter and all of the information is presented as trivia.
The relentless August sun glares down on the meadow and sweat rolls down the young hunter’s face. He breaks open a rotting log to find the fat grubs just under the bark and places them in a rawhide box which he carries to the edge of a pond. A simple gorge hook made from a splinter of turkey bone is threaded through the grubs and tossed into the pond. It isn’t long before there are 4 decent sized sun fish are landed and a willow rod is threaded through the gills. The youth secures them in the shallow water at the pond’s edge and starts his fire. Clay is collected from the small stream feeding pond along with a trailing three leafed plant with tiny yellow flowers. The plant has bean-like pods that are not much larger than a grain of rice and the whole top is gathered. By now the small campfire has burned down to embers and the young man tests the heat by holding his hand over the pit until it’s uncomfortable. The fish are dressed out with a stone chip that’s five times sharper than a modern scalpel and stuffed with the tart plant. The fish are then packed in the clay and carefully buried in the hot pit. The youth has several of these plants left and nibbles them to quench his thirst as he Leisurely completes his camp tasks. He notes the time by counting hand widths between the sun and the horizon. The fish should be done cooking by now and he opens the pit up again. The Clay has baked into perfectly sealed containers that slow cooked the fish. The sour herb imparted a lemon flavor to the meat that rivals anything found in a modern day restaurant. The youth chants a native blessing over his meal and thanks the creator for the bounty of the land.
Image Titled “Wood Sorrel 71020b” showing the color difference between the herb and the rest of the grass.
One of the first plants most kids learn how to forage in the Appalachian Mountains is Wood Sorrel. My guess is that it’s also true for the rest of the world because there are 1,810 species that are found worldwide including some cultivated varieties that are sold as shamrocks around St. Patrick’s Day in Spring. However, true shamrocks are Trifolium species ( clovers) while Wood Sorrels are Oxalis species. Both plants are edible but the Oxalis is far superior in flavor. As foreshadowed by the fiction story in tonight’s post Wood Sorrel has a sour flavor that’s likened to lemon but I’ve found it to be more like Sweet-Tarts candy. One YouTube channel referred to them as “Nature’s Sour Patch Kids.”
Wood Sorrel is excellent in salads and as a flavoring on meats as well as in soups. Nutritionally Wood Sorrel is rich in Vitamin C and boasts to be richer in bioavailable iron than even spinach. The vitamin C available from from one serving (1 cup) of Wood Sorrel provides 106% of the recommended daily intake. It’s for this reason that Wood Sorrel was used to treat scurvy in the old days. Additionally it supplies the same percentage of vitamin A. There also seems to be a multitude of other vitamins and minerals including small amounts of zinc and copper.
Image Titled “Wood Sorrel 71020c”.
Other medicinal values include gargling the juice for sore throat and mouth ulcers, as a compress for anti-inflammatory effects and as a digestive aid. Which brings us to the obligatory notes on oxalic acid. All throughout all of reference materials we find dire warnings of the high content of oxalic acid. It’s “Sorta true”. The whole family of plants is named for the high amount of oxalic acid which among other things can lead to kidney stones and if you get enough of it there is risk of kidney failure. The as if you eat too much spinach or too much broccoli. We can also add kale to this list of plants that contains “dreadful” (sic) oxalic acid. So if your doctor or nutritionist has advised that you avoid green leafy vegetables then perhaps you should also avoid the Oxalis family.
For a more in depth look at oxalic acid and nutrition I’m going to refer to one of the better videos on YouTube.
Wood Sorrel is actually something that I enjoy but it’s not something that I eat massive amounts of. It’s best used as an accent herb along with other forage plants like violet, dandelion greens and chicory or as an addition to a garden salad. The zesty flavor helps offset greens that are a little on the bland side.
As a last little tid-bit I did encounter several people making Wood Sorrel lemonade that sound very intriguing. They simply made a light colored tea and sweetened to taste. Due to the mineral content of the plant my guess is that it’s pretty high in electrolytes as well.
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