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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - March 25, 2007

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Edibility of Rumex hastatulus (heartwing sorrel)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

My mother and aunt, who are in their 80s, tell stories of eating a plant, when they were girls in North Central Texas. They call the plant "sheep shire". My mother says that it is a flat weed, that tastes like a sour pickle. What is it?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants remembers, as a child in East Texas, chewing on the stem of a plant that we called "sourweed" and thinks that plant is Rumex hastatulus (heartwing sorrel).

Delena Tull in Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest says, "Rumex hastatulus and R. acetosella, both commonly called sheep sorrel, have a pickle-sour flavor similar to that of Oxalis."

Another possibility for this plant, of course, is Oxalis drummondii (Drummond's woodsorrel). Woodsorrel leaves and flowers are often added to salads or as flavoring in cooked greens.

Oxalic acid is the compound in both Oxalis and Rumex that causes the sour flavor. In small portions it is harmless but large amounts can be toxic. Rumex spp. and Oxalis spp. can be toxic, but only if large quantities are consumed. Also, Rumex spp. can be toxic to livestock in large quantities.


Rumex hastatulus

Oxalis drummondii

 

 

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