Among the other wild plants growing here at Oak Hill, we have a multitude of curly dock. This perennial broadleaf plant grows in wet areas such as ditches, roadsides, wetlands, pastures, and disturbed, unmanaged places. Our "patches" grow in various spots in the horses' pasture and near our pond.
Curly dock (rumex crispus) is also called curled dock, yellow dock, sour dock, bitter dock, winter dock and coffee-weed. A member of the buckwheat family, it is an erect plant that grows 2-4 feet tall.
The long, hairless leaves have wavy edges, giving the plant the name "curly" dock. The flower stalk is green, with nondescript green flowers that bloom from June to approximately September. In mid to late summer the entire stalk dies back and turns a distinctive rusty brown that makes the plant easy to identify.
The website Voyageur Country says:
"The primary human use of this plant is for food. The leaves, stalk, and even seeds are edible. The leaves have a slightly sour flavor and are collected in the early spring. Leaves are served as a raw vegetable in salads, a cooked vegetable or added to soups. Baking the leaves isn't recommended because they turn gooey. Be sure to wash the very young leaves before eating them because they contain chrysophanic acid that can irritate and numb your tongue. The leaves become bitter by mid-spring which is when the flower stalk is collected. Peel off the tough outer layer and then eat the stalk raw or boil it for a few minutes to soften. The seeds are collected when they are dry to the touch and then ground to create flour, which has a flavor similar to buckwheat. Curly dock is surprisingly nutritious and can easily compete with known vegetables in terms of nutrition."
|Curly dock, arrowhead clover, and thistle|
The above website describes the flavor of the leaves as "slightly sour" while others say it is "fairly pleasant tasting." I've not tasted curly dock so I can't add my own opinion. The leaves are supposed to be very rich in Vitamins A and C. The seeds can be ground up for flour, and roasted seeds have been used as a substitute for coffee
Curly dock is an alien species from Europe that has naturalized and is now found coast to coast across North America. As well as being a food source for humans, it's also an important source of food for the caterpillars of many butterflies. The seeds are also edible by chickens.
I think it's important to identify plants around us that can be used for food if needed, both for humans and for our livestock. Do you have edible wild plants growing on your homestead?
You are responsible for your own health.
Other posts in this series:
How to Harvest Yarrow
DIY Herb Field Guide
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a