Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Although this holiday is traditionally associated with the shamrock or clover, where I live wood sorrel is easier to find and forage. Both plants are edible and both have three leaves, but an easy way to tell the difference is that wood sorrel has heart-shaped leaves.
clover (Trifolium) on the left // wood sorrel (Oxalis) on the right
Wood sorrel is also known as sour grass and I especially like using it in drinks because it has a tart, refreshing flavor that can complement or take the place of other sours like lemon or lime. Look for it in moist, shady spots in forests or even your backyard from spring to summer. All wood sorrel species are edible — from the leaves to the stems and flowers — although some are more palatable than others. If you encounter some, just give it a nibble and see if you like it. (Note that wood sorrel is high in oxalic acid and should be avoided or used sparingly if you have kidney stones.)
Ireland? No, Los Angeles!
I hiked over to one of my favorite neighborhood gathering spots and harvested a few handfuls to make some festive green cocktails. Here’s a simple one to highlight your favorite gin — I used St. George Botanivore. Make sure to gather the stems along with the leaves, as they’re particularly juicy.
Wood Sorrel Gin Smash
1 generous handful wood sorrel leaves and stems
1 ounce simple syrup (see below)
2 ounces gin
Sprigs of wood sorrel, for garnish
Place the wood sorrel and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add the gin and fill the shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly, and strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with wood sorrel.
Makes 1 drink
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for another minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Makes about 1 cup