All of our favourite vegetables, greens and fruits started off as wild plants, and throughout the centuries humankind has lent a helping hand to cultivate varieties of plants that taste good and are easy to grow.
Part of the excitement of foraging is discovering these wild versions of the plants we already know – I love finding (and eating!) the tiny little wild strawberries on my yard – but many gardeners, myself included, often think of these plants as unwanted weeds. I spent an entire day in my garden last weekend trying to get rid of one of the most invasive weeds in my garden that sends runners underneath my carpets of woolly thyme and pops out everywhere. It seems that no matter how diligent I am at weeding these things – they keep coming up because I can’t get to their roots without digging up the woolly thyme.
I can’t believe that these little weeds turned out to be a type of sorrel!
When I lived out of province, my cultivated sorrel plant was one of my most treasured inhabitants of my garden as it was one of the main ingredients for my favourite soup, Somma Borscht. My Oma used to make this tangy and savoury soup, and every time I eat it I think of her. The lemony taste of sorrel is a perfect complement to the ham bone broth, and together with a bit of cream and a handful of dill it makes the most comforting soup. It also tastes great in salads and in sauces for fish. Sorrel was the first plant on my must-have perennial list this spring to plant at my new house when I moved last fall, since it’s not something you can easily find in stores or the market.
I only figured out the correlation between my nasty weeds – sheep’s sorrel– and my treasured perennial – garden sorrel – when I recently visited a friend with a similar sorrel fetish whose plant had bolted and was flowering.
All of a sudden, it looked very familiar… Same flowers, and although the weed version had tiny leaves compared to the cultivated plant, I realized they had the same shape.
Last weekend as I was once again weeding my woolly thyme, I saved the lushest, greenest sheep’s sorrel leaves and I tried putting it into a batch of Somma borscht. And guess what? Both sorrels taste exactly the same. It’s a perfect match.
I guess it’s comforting to know that I will now never run out of my favourite herb, but I admit that I will continue to attempt to eradicate it from my garden. At least my cultivated plants don’t want to spread everywhere!