Pulicchakkeerai, known in English as Sorrel, is one among several native leafy vegetables available in our country. It is cultivated in several regions in India, especially the Ganges, the valleys of the Brahmaputra River as well as extensively in the states of Andhra and Tamil Nadu. It is cultivated for both its leaves and fibres.
It is also called kAichini-kIrai, kAichori, kAichurai, andkOngu in Tamil. As it tastes sour it is called புளிச்ச, pulichameaning ‘soured’ and கீரை, keeraimeaning ‘leafy vegetable.’ Its leaves, stem, seeds, and flowers all have medicinal properties. Its fibre is not only stronger than jute, but it has famed medicinal uses too.
Sorrel for Alleviating diseases
Heart disease, kidney ailments, nerve-related ailments, blood pressure, constipation, pins and needles, tastelessness, dysentery, ailments from excess bile, eczema, stomach ache, swelling, loss of appetite, vomiting bile, temperature are among several ailments that can be alleviated by this vegetable. It is also useful for bodily strength, synthesizing minerals and for glowing skin.
Its sourness is good for cough and upset stomach as well as wound healing, sexual arousal, and increase in sperm count.
It can be made into a stir-fry, or churned into a tasty stew, or blended into a puree with smoked chilli (milagaivattal), salt, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and turmeric root powder after sautéing it in a little oil. It can also be made into a mash (masiyal) by adding a little salt and chilli because it retains flavor well.
Good medicine for stomach aches
Pounded sorrel will expedite healing of ulcers or lesions when applied on them. It has the ability to cure stomach aches. It will stabilise bile-related imbalances, cure scabies, rebalance body temperature, stabilise stomach-related problems, as well as relieve wind-related stress. It shall cool the body, vitiates secretion and reduces bile, calms stomach ulcers, increases urine output, as well as serving as complementary medicine for heart and nerve-related diseases. It liquidates the faecal matter and calms the source of the malady,
When sorrel is well cleaned and churned into a stew with onion, green chilli and salt and eaten with rice and clarified butter, senses will be fortified and minerals will be secreted well.
Sorrel stems and shoots are used as feed for cattle in animal husbandry, such as cows and buffalos which consume sorrel leaves, shoots and stems increasing their milk output. In villages, soaked sorrel seeds are fed to milk-producing cattle and for chickens too.
Uses of fibres
Like its seeds, the fibres of sorrel are useful like jute and as such are sometimes grown exclusively for its fibres alone.Though it is silky, soft and white, the fibres are said to be stronger than jut, lasting up to six times longer than that of jute. A range of products such a as mats, fishing nets, ropes, high quality paper, etc. are manufactured from its fibre. The remainder, after the fibres have been removed, are sometimes used as fuel. Its dried stems are also used in manufacturing matchsticks.
Being native to Africa, it is cultivated widely in Russia, South Africa and North and South Americas as well as Java, China and Barbosa in Asia.
When Soviet Russia researched sorrel, it was said to grow well during days with longer sunlight and flowers during shorter sunlight days. In Tamil Nadu, it is planted during July-August and harvested in December. If cultivating for its fibre, it should be harvested on time otherwise it may lose its sheen or go brittle.