The Q&A Archives: Identifying an Eastern European Soup Green

Question: I am trying to identify a plant called "sof" (the spelling is phonetic, and may be incorrect). It is a leaf vegetable that looks similiar to spinach, but has much larger leaves. It has been passed down through the family and was brought over from the Poland/Croatia area when the family emigrated. My family uses it for soup, and they say it tastes like sour spinach. I cannot find any reference to it anywhere. Do you know the history, and where can I find some recipes?

Answer: It sounds to me like sorrel, which is widely cultivated in Europe and used in soups there. And I've found this information and two recipes in "Greene on Greens", a cookbook by Bert Greene (ISBN# 0-89480-659-9; Workman Publishing): "[These soups are] derived from a classic Russian-Polish cold dish named shchav or schav. The word comes from a local Polish name for sorrel leaves (szazaw), of which most such soups are composed. There is rumored to be a shchav recipe for every shtetl (Jewish community) that existed in both Poland and Russia at the turn of the century." Does this sound like it? I'll bet if you paged through some ethnic cookbooks in the bookstore, or even on the web, you'd find more information like this. Best of luck!

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