If you had a little too much green beer over the weekend, don’t worry — you weren’t alone. St. Patrick’s Day may have a rich historical point of origin in Ireland, but here in the States, it’s often just an excuse to chug cheap brews died into verdant colors. So here’s a little shamrock for the outdoor lover who might still overindulge.
The little green plant known as wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) has often been mistaken as clover because of its three leaflets. On closer examination, you’ll find a big difference. Sorrel’s leaflets are heart shaped, while clover leaflets are round or oval. Wood sorrel grows in both sunny places and shady spots on the edges of woods throughout the eastern U.S., and it has many relatives growing coast to coast. Wood sorrel usually tops out at under a foot tall, and it typically has small yellow flowers, though some species have more pinkish or purplish blooms. Looking much like a classic shamrock, the fresh leaves can be eaten raw as a tasty sour salad green.
You can also make a helpful hangover cure with wood sorrel. A handful of the leaves can be steeped in hot water for 10 minutes and then chilled to make a cold drink. This cold beverage looks and tastes like a green lemonade, and has the remarkable ability to calm nausea and soothe upset stomachs, which often go hand-in-hand with the headaches of hangovers. While there’s no problem with the occasional consumption of this plant, use it in moderation over the long term. The sour tasting oxalic acid in wood sorrel can inhibit the body’s absorption of calcium and possibly contribute to kidney stones over time. Look for related edible species such as the violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea), the pink wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), and other members of the Oxalis genus.
Have you eaten this wild edible? Or used it to treat nausea? Let us hear about it in the comments. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day!