I’ll bet you’ve heard of the famous Russian soup, red borscht. Who hasn’t? A few American coworkers at my parents’ old job gave red borscht the nickname “crazy soup”. Indeed it can be strange trying something new, especially when it’s a soup painted red by beet root. “Crazy soup” as it may have been to those coworkers, they loved it nonetheless, and requested that the Russian employees bring red borscht to work regularly.
If you think red borscht is unique, well you’re right. But…there is another soup; the Russian red borscht’s distant cousin green borscht- and this spring green hued soup is undiscovered by many and little known.
What is borscht? Borscht is a sour soup. It is common in Eastern Europe as well as northern Asia. Although borscht is a word usually used to refer to red beetroot borscht, it is actually used for a wide selection of other variations of the sour soup. For instance, green borscht or sorrel soup, is a type of borscht, or sour soup.
Green borscht (sorrel soup) features a broth or water base, diced potatoes, sorrel, hard boiled eggs, and dill. Some variations of green borscht also include rice, parsley root, carrots, and even beetroot!
The main characteristic of green borscht is the sour taste acquired from the sorrel. The taste is quite acidic, but paired with smetana (Russian sour cream) or mayonnaise, the acidity is fairly neutralized. Green borscht may be served chilled or hot (I prefer hot). I also love to add smetana to the soup, and smear some on a piece of toasted rustic or rye bread. Mmm!
You may be asking yourself, what is the main ingredient, sorrel? And where do I buy sorrel? Well, I’ll be honest; sorrel is not an easy green to find. In fact, most people who like to enjoy a bowl of green borscht on occasion grow sorrel in their gardens.
That doesn’t mean it is impossible to find, no. You can find it at a local farmers market around springtime or perhaps a more organic style supermarket. And if you have a European market local to you, in the springtime they’ll most likely have some sorrel for sale.
What does sorrel taste like? Oh goodness, I believe sorrel is totally undervalued and unappreciated! It is a delicious, lemony, tangy perennial that adds a delightful zing to a sauce or a spring salad. It is exceptionally tart, sour, and acidic tasting. Eating sorrel is kind of like eating an unsweetened sour patch kids candy!
I’d just suggest you grow sorrel yourself in your garden. We had so much sorrel in our garden at my parents’ old house. It was such a pleasure to be able to walk out to the side of the house, cut some leaves, and make a fresh green borscht then and there.
How do you grow sorrel? You should plant sorrel just around early spring when the soil is warm and soft. The sorrel seeds should be planted just under the soil, and about 6 inches apart. You should try and keep the soil moderately moist, however sorrel takes very little attention to grow successfully.
Can you grow sorrel in a pot? Absolutely! Sorrel will thrive even in partial shade. Just place the pots around your window for some light, or on your back patio. Be sure to use an 8 inch pot as your container.
With spring just around the corner, green borscht is an incredible soup to serve for lunch! I can’t wait to share my favorite recipe for sorrel soup with you, and make it a staple in your home too!
What You Need:
8 cups water
3 diced russet or red potatoes
3 chopped hard boiled eggs
3 cups chopped fresh rinsed sorrel
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp Vegeta seasoning
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
In a large pot, bring salted and Vegeta seasoned water and bay leaves to a boil. This will be the base for our green borscht. If you cannot find Vegeta seasoning, you may use a vegetable broth instead. You may also use a bullion cube or two. Growing up, my mom never used pre-made broth for any soups. She always prepared the soup from scratch and typically added the bullion cubes for enhanced flavor.
Meanwhile peel the potatoes. Either russet or red potatoes taste brilliantly in this sorrel soup. Rinse the potatoes and dice. Boil the eggs, and chop. Once soup base has come to a boil, add in the diced potatoes and cook until almost done. Poke with a sharp knife, and if it goes through the potato easily you’re ready to throw in the chopped eggs, and chopped sorrel. Stir to combine ingredients.
Now you may add the salt and pepper, and chopped fresh dill. Stir to combine, cover and let simmer. The sorrel only needs about 5 minutes to soften. And our green borscht is ready to devour!
Can I add meat to green borscht? Yes! My dad did not enjoy meaty soups, so my mom cooked with his preference in mind. I don’t recall ever having green borscht containing any meat. To me, green borscht has always been a vegetarian soup.
Just as red borscht can be prepared vegetarian or meaty, so can green borscht. I personally don’t believe beef would be the ideal choice in this soup, as it is too light in flavor and would be overpowered by the meat. Chicken would be the preferred choice, and would compliment this soup quite well!
If preparing sorrel soup with chicken, sauté and brown the diced chicken first in butter and oil, and then add the water and carry on with above instructions. Delicious!
As stated above, you may serve this soup hot or chilled. I’ve tried both, and while it is still good chilled, I much prefer the soup steaming hot. My favorite topping on green borscht is a dollop of smetana, or sour cream. You can use a dollop of mayonnaise instead (husband’s preference). The soup tastes great with mayonnaise too.
This green borscht is quick and simple; perfect for a fresh lunch. What can you serve with green borscht? Toasted fresh rye bread and butter, or a sweet Hawaiian roll alongside this soup is mouthwatering!
Many times, a borscht or soup will serve as an appetizer and another meal will come next. Russians like to have a variety of foods on the table. Since this green borscht is so light, you can follow up with a hearty dish like chicken plov or classic beef stroganoff until your tummy is full!
I hope you enjoy this refreshing yet comforting springtime green borscht!