Saturday, November 9, 2013

Is My New Favorite Herb Going to Kill Me?

I discovered an herb called Sorrel this year and boy do I love it. I have two Sorrel plants, which is a perennial herb, although it looks more like a leafy green. The flavor is a combination of sweet, tangy and spicy. One thing I read compares it to the flavor of kiwi fruit and yeh, it kind of is in a way. I have loved having it in salads.

Earlier this week I was enjoying some Sorrel in my salad and decided to look up more info about it online. I read some disturbing things that made me actually STOP eating my salad! I read it can lead to kidney, brain, heart, and liver damage and can be fatal in large amounts! Woah, should I really be eating this stuff????? The problem is it contains oxalic acid. Spinach also has oxalic acid, but I guess maybe not in the same amounts...oxalic acid is also the reason you cannot eat rhubard leaves. The more I read, the more I thought I better stop eating this. One thing I read said you would have to eat pounds and pounds of it for it to be fatal, but that if you have had kidney stones you need to avoid it. My dad had kidney disease, so I certainly don’t want to put myself at risk for that.

Several herb and gardening websites extol the virtues of Sorrel – it is extremely high in Vitamin C and also is a good source of Iron, Potassium, and Vitamin A. I found recipes for Sorrel Soup and lots of references to adding it to salads. So really, it can’t be that bad, right? I really wish I knew an herbalist or someone like that who can tell me if it really is that risky to eat. Maybe I will contact a Master Gardener or my local gardening extension and ask about it. That might put my mind at ease...or make me reconsider putting it in my salad...not sure which.

What is the lesson learned here? Take the time to learn about what you are eating, practice moderation, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Will I stop eating Sorrel? Hmmm, no, I think not totally. However, I will eat less of it and not eat it so often...just in case... It sure does add a nice zest to a salad, though!

Longwood Gardens Continues to Impress

Ugh, so sorry for being silent for so long. Can’t seem to keep up with everything lately – too much work and homework!

I was at a concert at Longwood Gardens last night, in the ballroom that is attached to the East Conservatory. Before the concert and during intermission we were able to wander throughout the conservatories. This is always a wonderful experience because it is after-hours and the conservatories become a magical place, all hushed and dimly lit. Currently on display is their annual fall Chrysanthemum Festival. They have trained mums into cascading and topiary forms and have some trained into 13 foot arches. Some noteworthy and impressive accomplishments:

  • Over 100 different varieties of chrysanthemum flowers on one plant. Let me say that again so it sinks in: Over 100 DIFFERENT mum flowers all on ONE PLANT. Can you say, “WOW!?” This is done using a grafting technique that has been around for hundreds of years in China and Japan. Check out their blog post to learn more about the process – the post is from 2012, but it is worth checking out.
  • This year their “Thousand Bloom Mum” has broken a North American record for having 1,416 blooms on it. Again, all on one plant. It takes 17 months to make the Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum happen each year, and thousands of working hours by staff members. See their blog again to learn more about this process – this post is from 2011, but it gives you an appreciation for all of the work that goes into creating this each year. Definitely watch the little slideshow/video on there. To see this year’s mum, click here and scroll to the bottom. Also, click on the “show more” link to see other interesting photos from this year’s display.

They have some seriously talented people working at Longwood Gardens. “Kudos!” to all of them for a job well done, as always. The Chrysanthemum Festival is on through November 24th.