June 2, 2014

Curly Dock

"A weed is simply a plant that you don't know what to do with."
Author Unknown

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.

Curly dock leaves

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.

Curly dock seed stalks

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
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 seeds

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?

Disclaimer: Remember, before using this or any herb or plant, please research it fully.
You are responsible for your own health.

Other posts in this series:
Woolly Mullein
Wild Onions
How to Harvest Yarrow
Curly Dock
DIY Herb Field Guide

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. Your photos are beautiful. I used to chew on these as a child and this brought back super fond memories.

  2. If you nibbled on them as a child, it must taste reasonably good. :-)

  3. I love your weedy posts. I'm going to have to look for dock, I've never found it before! I hope it's sour like sorrel, I love sorrel. ^_^

  4. Thank you, Rose. Once the seed stalks turn brown you'll be able to spot it easily.

  5. Thanks, Kathi. Once again your photos are fabulous. I am pinning this to one of my wild edibles boards on pinterest. I have not yet seen a post on curly dock that shows the plant parts as clearly as yours!

  6. Thank you so much, Janet! I hope it's helpful to others.

  7. I wouldn't have the first clue if there is anything edible here aside from what we plant. You're so knowledgeable about these things.
    Thanks for sharing this on The Maple Hill Hop!

  8. Daisy, hopefully these posts are opening your eyes - I hope so. :-)

  9. I've never heard of this one. I'm really loving this series. Thank you so much for sharing on Green Thumb Thursday. I hope we see you again today!

  10. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead7:04 AM

    Thanks, Jessica, I'm glad you're enjoying the series. I've already been over to visit you at The 104 Homestead this morning. :-)


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