Wood Sorrel (genus Oxalis), or sourgrass, is a medium sized edible plant that occurs throughout most of North America. Within the genus Oxalis, there are several species. Wood sorrel typically grows a maximum of 15 inches tall. Its small heart-shaped, "folded" leaves grow in groups of 3. Its tiny flowers are typically white or yellow though they can be pink or violet depending on species. Oxalis means literally "sour" and is named as such due to its oxalic acid content. Many domesticated vegetables, including spinach and broccoli, also contain oxalic acid, which is considered toxic when consumed in large quantities because it inhibits the absorption of calcium.
Oxalic acid is not considered a problem when consumed moderately and with a varied diet, however people with gout, rheumatism and kidney stones should avoid it. Wood sorrel is also rich in Vitamin C. Historically, it was used to treat scurvy, fevers, urinary infections, mouth sores, nausea and sore throats. It's qualities and flavor are similar to sheep sorrel.
There are no poisonous look-alikes. Clover is often mistaken for wood sorrel but clover is not poisonous.
Prepare wood sorrel by picking off the leaves, flowers and seed pods. Some of the whispy leaf stems are delicate enough to use but tough stems should be discarded. Wood sorrel should be used fresh. In addition to making a great seasoning and salad ingredient, it's also good as a tea. To make wood sorrel tea, pour boiling water over the leaves and flowers and let steep for half an hour or so. Wood sorrel pairs well with:
- wild game and other meats
- raw or cooked wild greens
Wood sorrel is a common lawn weed that likes partial shade. To harvest, where abundant or unwanted (such as your yard or garden), simply pull it up by its roots. It can be harvested from mid-spring through fall. Yellow wood sorrel blooms April through September.