Friday, March 13, 2009
Under the snow some determined little plants are already green. In the warmth of last weekend, I scratched away some snow in my yard to see what was happening and uncovered the Wood Sorrel looking like a shamrock and all greened up in time for St. Patrick’s Day. The dictionary definition for shamrock is rather broad covering several species of tri-foliate plants and one of those is the Wood Sorrel.
Name: The Wood Sorrels belong to the genus Oxalis which has several species. The name comes from the Greek “oxys” which means sharp and refers to the lemon acid taste of the leaves. The Wood Sorrels I found were sorry specimens with insufficient characteristics to determine the species. The other common sorrel we have is the Sheep Sorrel, a totally unrelated plant from the genus Rumex, but which also tastes acidic. The common name of both types of sorrel comes from an old English word for sour.
Habitat: Wood Sorrels are common weeds (or wildflowers) along roadsides, in fields, in disturbed areas, and in gardens. They like plenty of light but not direct sun. I have found them and snacked on them, later in the year than this, at the edges of fields in Great Brook Farm State Park.
Distinguishing characteristics: Wood Sorrel has three heart-shaped leaflets each of which is often folded in half. It is easy to recognize in the later spring and summer by its yellow flowers with five petals. And of course the pleasant lemony taste of the leaves is a good diagnostic.
Recipes: In “The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook,” which is in the Gleason Library, there is a recipe for Wood Sorrel Dumplings. There is also a note that even though Sheep Sorrel and Wood Sorrel are different species and quite different looking plants, they can be interchanged in recipes. The book has recipes for a version of guacamole and one for Cream of Sorrel soup using either Sheep or Wood Sorrel .
Sources: Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb; The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook, Steve Brill.
On March 3, Esther Ratner spotted this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk sitting in a tree in a farm field at the corner of Acton and West Streets.
I have always thought of grasshoppers as insects of summer and fall but last weekend I was roaming around the Towle Field looking for more Wood Sorrel and I found several little brown grasshoppers.
On March 3, Esther Ratner spotted this
(photo by Esther Ratner)
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito