It was a fine day last week when my four year old granddaughter and I set out on a walk to explore the byways of old Nacogdoches. The air was cool, the sky was blue, and in the trees, little flocks of chickadees and titmice followed us down Price Street discussing our progress towards Shelly’s Bakery and the brick streets of downtown.
As we sauntered along, we chatted together on various subjects that presented themselves. Idly I stopped to pick a few oxalis blooms that were coming up in a neighbor’s lawn. Without much thought I popped the tart, lemony tasting flowers in my mouth, and we walked on. The moment passed and nothing was said. Several hours later, when we were coming back down Price Street towards home, the little four year old stopped still in her tracks in front of the little meadow of oxalis blooms next to the curb of the street. “Papa (that’s me) are you going to eat some more?” I replied, ” No, but why don’t you try a few?” At my urging she tried a few.
First, a word about oxalis in general. Oxalis violacea emerges in early spring from an underground bulb, and grows to be an erect, delicate little wildflower up to 12 inches tall. The three-part leaves have heart-shaped leaflets that are similar in appearance to small clovers such or shamrocks. Like all wood sorrels the leaves fold downward, together at night or in cold weather. This a wonderful little trait that can be explained (to grandchildren) as the plant going to sleep at night or taking a nap when it gets cold.
Violet wood-sorrel is a very common woodland species here in East Texas and grows eastward along the Gulf Coast and expands its range northward into Missouri. It will repeat bloom here in East Texas in the fall of the year as the weather cools.
Wood sorrel is well known among naturalist as a plant that can be grazed upon if you are in the woods and a bit hungry. Its leaves, flowers, and roots are all edible. The leaves and flowers make a zesty and interesting addition to salads. All parts of oxalis are sometimes cooked in with other greens like turnips or spinach.
Some folks even put the flowers in English Breakfast Tea as a zesty garnish.
Now back to the walk with my granddaughter. The word Oxalis is from the Greek meaning sour. After chewing the pretty little flowers for a bit, she daintily and as ladylike as possible leaned over and spit them out. I’m not for sure but I may have burned a few culinary bridges with her that day. They are zesty! (It would have been a good time to teach her the word “Zesty”, but I did not seize the moment.) She took the whole thing very well seeing we had just had a grand time eating cupcakes up at Shelly’s bakery, but I doubt she’ll ever take my culinary advice again.