The common sorrel, or spinach dock, is a perennial herb, which grows abundantly in meadows in most parts of Europe and is cultivated as a leaf vegetable. It is a slender plant about 60 cm high, with juicy stems and leaves. It has whorled spikes of reddish-green flowers, which bloom in June and July. The leaves are oblong, the lower ones being 7 to 15 cm in length, slightly arrow-shaped at the base, with very long petioles. The upper ones are sessile, and frequently become crimson.
As the flowers increase in size, they become a purplish colour. The stamens and pistils are on different plants. The seeds, when ripe, are brown and shining. The perennial roots run deeply into the ground.
The leaves of sorrel are eaten by the larvae of several species of Lepidoptera including blood-vein.
Common sorrel has been cultivated for centuries, although its popularity has decreased considerably over time. Because of the mildly acidic taste, it quenches thirst, and may be helpful in boosting the appetite. The leaves are edible and may be added to salads to sharpen the taste. They are often puréed in soups and sauces. The plant contains oxalic acid, which produces its characteristic flavour, and so may be contraindicated in people with rheumatic-type complaints, kidney or bladder stones, and the like. It is also a laxative.