04 August 2007

The Purple Shamrock

Wood-sorrel is in the genus Oxalis. While it does grow in the woods, wood-sorrel also grows in gardens as weeds and tends to find its way to many other cracks and crevices. Many Oxalis have a spring loaded seedpod. When ripe the seedpod will fling its seeds in all directions at the slightest touch.

I was first introduced to this genus by my father. He taught me that biting into the shamrock shaped leaves will yield an acidic almost citric flavor. It is from this flavor that the genus gets it's name. The acidic bite is caused by oxalic acid.

Dad told me, that in the new American frontier, pioneers would use large amounts of Wood-sorrel in their cooking. Unfortunately, too much of the wood-sorrel caused health problems. I've always wondered exactly what happened. I decided to do some research and find out.

The Research Internet only . . .
Oxalic acid binds with calcium. Long-term consumption of large amounts of oxalic acid can cause kidney stones and calcium deficiencies.

Dietary sources of oxalic acid include rhubarb (which is why we don't eat rhubarb leaves), spinach, chocolate, and tea. Source.

Some of the more useful species in this genus are the Oca and Scurvy-grass sorrel. Oca produces an underground tuber that is edible and a staple in some regions of the world. Scurvy-grass sorrel is high in vitamin C, and was used by sailors to fend off scurvy.

In Summation
Care must be shone when using members from the genus Oxalis as food. Especially if you have digestive problems. And as with everything, moderation.

With that in mind:
My Purple Oxalis rocks! It is called a Purple Shamrock by some. This is one of the species with tubers or bulbs. I've seen it go through several 'resting states' only to revive looking just fine. It doesn't mind too much when I forget to water it; it always comes back to life. :)


Wood-sorrel is quite good as tea. I have found the Purple Oxalis to make an excellent tea as well. I always use freshly cut leaves.
Boil a cup of water.
Cut three stems.
Rinse leaves and chop. Then put into mug.
Once water is ready, pour over leaves.
Let seep 30 seconds.
Add honey or green tea to taste.

The purple oxalis adds visual interest and taste to salads.
Start with a bagged salad of mixed baby greens.
Cut and rinse the oxalis leaves.
Separate the three leaflets and scatter over the salad.
Dress with Oil and Vinegar, Salt & Pepper.

A Substitute
When lemons are in short supply, wood-sorrel can make an interesting substitution. This recipe comes from wildfoodplants.com
Oxalis Cooler 1 quart water
1/2 cup Oxalis leaf/stem/flowers/seedpods
1 T agave nectar or honey
dash of salt
Mix all ingredients in a blender. If possible, let sit overnight in refrigerator and enjoy!
The only change I'd make is to filter out any pulp with a muslin cloth.

Pressed Plants
While tri-foliate leaves of wood-sorrel make an attractive pressed plant, my Purple Oxalis is truly vivid.

These pressings can be glued to paper and turned into bookmarks and stationary.

Give it a try!

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