Sheep Sorrel-also called Sour Grass


by Jennifer Odom

When I was eight I thought of a plan to become rich.

It was the sour grass. Daddy taught us how to identify its tall red stems with their red grainy seed-tops.

Sheep-sorrel, some people call it, and it grew in the back field, the same field where we explored for arrow heads, and two sisters later pastured their horses.

Daddy showed us we could pluck and chew the stems to get the tart lemony juice, a fun thing to do while we played in the yard.

So I decided that I could get rich by manufacturing sour grass juice.

Well, it was a short-lived idea.

But that doesn’t mean someone isn’t capitalizing on sour grass. No sir, some people claim sheep sorrel can fight cancer. (

To be sure, my blog is not medical advice, and there are experts such as those at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who refute those cancer-cure claims.

But whether its medicinal value is true or not, sour grass a terrific weed in other ways, handy for salads, soups, for curdling cheese, and in making wine. I once pondered whether the stems would make a good substitute in rhubarb pie.  But nah, probably too woody. In a pinch, though, it would keep you from starving. Herbalists claim all its plant parts are useful, the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots.

It’s March right now in central Florida, and fields are covered with this red-topped plant. Found in acidic sandy soil, the same kind blueberries like, it’s a real pest to blueberry growers. Maybe the blueberry growers should join up with the herb-collectors for free weeding help.

A member of the buckwheat family, this native of Eurasia and the British Isles is also known as Rumex acetocella, and spreads vigorously via underground rhizomes.

Let caution prevail if consuming it. Sheep sorrel contain an abundance of oxalates, and according to Wikipedia, should be avoided by people with kidney stones and anyone taking diuretics where it can lead to diarrhea and a dangerous loss of potassium from the body. Memorial Sloan Kettering claims it may cause an upset stomach and abdominal cramps, and the oxalates can damage your liver.

Regardless, sheep sorrel’s a beautiful plant, and will always remind me of my dear old dad and my plant to get rich off of sour grass juice.

9 thoughts on “Sheep Sorrel-also called Sour Grass”

  1. Very happy to find someone besides my self that chewed sour grass as a child,never made me sick,you are the only person I ever told l0l

  2. Yep, looked forward to spring in south Alabama as a kid when this stuff would appear. To this day, this plant with its light red colored leaves (?) and slightly multicolored stalks along with an autumn field of goldenrod will cause me to pull the car over and just stare at it for a while. I was literally just journaling about “sour grass” and my first memories of it, make a couple of Google searches, and ended up here. Brings a few fond memories of my dad, as well.

  3. I just pulled up a bunch of this “weed” that I loved to chew as a child, that I remember a gentleman saying he was going to make a salad of it. So now I’ m looking for ways to make a salad of it.

      1. Passing fields of sour grass going home from Myrtle Beach. I too have wonderful memories of chewing sour grass. It would be amazing to find a way to use this crop for good. For now, I’ll chew it when I can and enjoy the memories.

  4. At this stage of my life, I realize there is a name for what I did in the Alabama woods. Foraging. I enjoyed the wild edible glasses and weeds, not to mention the fruits and nuts. Progress has destroyed moat of these things which were free for the taking. Too bad, it really was alot of fun.

    1. Yes, and my family would take Sunday drives and so many times find little wildflowers to dig and take home. It’s not the same anymore.

      1. All U have to do is just do it again and again. I’m 62 and still roaming over my Dad’s field eating this stuff we called Indian sour weed. Thanks for the memories. Jeff from FL. Panhandle.

  5. I chewed it all my life did not know its name but always when walking in the woods and ran up on it! Had no idea so many others chewed it also.

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