Raw Food Foraging: Sour Grass

Raw Food Foraging: Sour Grass

Sour Grass

6h_common_yellow_oxalisAs a child I would pull handfuls of sour grass from the sidewalks in Santa Barbara, CA. Dormant most of the year, December would arrive and the grasses seemed to suddenly appear, standing nearly a foot high, crowned in a cluster of small yellow flowers. I can still remember my small fingers removing one flower at a time and popping them in my mouth, my face puckering from the intense sour, yet pleasant flavor.

Oxalis pes-caprae, also known as Bermuda sorrel, goat’s foot, and sour grass, is in the edible Oxalis family comprised of over 900 species called “wood sorrels”. Most species have a leaflet structure similar to clover, flowers with 5 petals that vary in color, and have a succulent root system. Although the entire oxalis plant is edible, generally only the stems and flowers are consumed, except in species with tuberous root systems called oxalis tuberosa. Known as “uqa” and similar to the potato, the tuber of the oxalis tuberosa provides foodstuffs for both Columbia and the Andes.

Sour grass does not have tubers but does rely heavily on its root system for propagation. Often considered a weed in the United States, Europe, and Australia, my parents let the grass grow where it pleased in the front yard of my childhood home. It filled the yard in a lush ground cover, nestled against the wood siding of the house and popping their soft yellow heads through the slats in our picket fence.

It is now December and I am an adult back in Santa Barbara. Sour grass is growing everywhere and like many other parts of the world, I am using small amounts in salads, dressings, juices and even smoothies.

Oxalic Acid

Sour grass is contains oxalic acid, which gives it that sour flavor. Oxalic acid in high doses can pose health risks, causing kidney stones and irritation to the intestines and therefor consuming massive amounts of sour grass is not recommended. That said, many foods contain oxalic acid such as spinach, collards, and asparagus with large amounts found in purslane, chives, and parsley.

It is largely considered wildly unlikely that toxicity from oxalic acid through food consumption is possible. The US National Institutes of Health recognize oxalic acid is present in a variety of foods consumed and is considered of little or no consequence. Therefor, oxalic acid should only be a concern in its isolated state where potentially harmful consumption is possible. (Or if your diet consists solely of chives, parsley and sour grass!)

Health Benefits of Sour Grass

According to “The Handbook of Edible Weeds”, the Cherokee would eat wood sorrels to relieve oral irritation, the Iroquois used wood sorrels to sooth stomach pains, Algonquians believed wood sorrels to be an aphrodisiac, and the Kiowa used wood sorrels to quench thirst.

Sour grass is very high in vitamin C, which has been shown to prevent cancer. Need I say more? Vitamin C is one of the most potent anti-oxidants, stabilizing free radical oxygen molecules that do harm to our RNA.

The roots of Sour grass have been used to treat tapeworm and other worm infections. The entire plant has been made into a paste and used topically to treat swelling.

Recipe: Sour Apple Spritzer
sour apple spritzerServes 2-4

(great for kids!)

Use juicers to juice:

1 cup loosely packed sour grass stems and flowers
4 medium sized sweet apples (I recommend gala)

Add 12 ounces high quality sparkling water

Enjoy!