Who’s Sorrel Now?

While reading a review copy of Comfort Food for Breakups The Memoir of a Hungry Girl by Toronto-based author Marusya Bociurkiw, I was intrigued by her description of “green borsch”, a soup she was served while visiting Ukraine.

Green borsch contains no beets whatsoever, but instead is comprised primarily of potatoes, carrot, sorrel, broth of some denomination and spices. It sounded interesting and Bociurkiw’s description made it doubly so, but then I quickly put it out of my mind as I made my way through her book of food memoirs.

A few days later, I found myself in Benna’s, that delightful bakery/deli/grocery store in the Polish neighbourhood of Roncesvalles Village. I cannot pass Benna’s without going in and buying something, and I’ve found everything from delightful sweets and pastries to cheeses and Polish canned good there.

On this day, Greg and I were admiring the many varieties of both pickled herring and headcheese when I spied a jar of green stuff. In a total Celestine Prophecy moment, I reached up and realized I was holding the elusive green borsch or sorrel soup. And it was vegetarian.

Of course, I had to buy it.

Turns out, sorrel soup is considered a classic dish all across Eastern Europe right into France and the UK. A Google search turns up 205,000 entries, most of which appear to be recipes. Who knew? Certainly not me, or apparently, Marusya Bociurkiw. And since she’s both a foodie and of Ukrainian descent, I didn’t feel so bad.

This particular brand is concentrated, and so at lunchtime today, just after the temperature dropped from a humid 19′C to a frigid 10′C in about an hour, and it seemed like a perfect time for soup of any type, I added some water and heated it up.

I don’t recall ever having eaten sorrel in any form, soup or otherwise, and the flavour was intriguing. Many descriptions of sorrel refer to it as being citrus-y and vaguely acidic. I didn’t get either the wild strawberry or kiwifruit comparisons, but maybe it needs to be the fresh leaves and not cooked. To me, it smelled very green and earthy, not quite hay-like but definitely like something you’d smell on a farm.

Taste-wise it was that same green and earthy flavour, grass-like but not exactly, and had a tangy end note that I wouldn’t quite characterise as bitter, but a definite pleasant sharpness. Full of potato and carrot, the soup was hearty and warming. I’m not sure how close my little jar of sorrel soup came to the authentic version the author had in Ukraine, but this one certainly was good to me. And at $1.89 for a jar that contains 3 to 4 servings, also a very good deal.

Of course, now I’m on a mission to track down some fresh sorrel and make my own. Also to try the stuff in salads. I love it when eating interesting things becomes such a fun adventure.