I saw a young Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) the other day when I walked down the driveway. Usually, unless I’m specifically looking for younger plants, when I notice this plant it’s already matured and ready to produce seeds.
Yellow dock, while not native to our soil, is one that will make its way into the next volume of “10 Useful Plants Worth Knowing” because it grows everywhere I’ve ever been (with maybe the exception of the Middle East). It is both edible and medicinal.
It’s not a plant I use often, but I like knowing it’s there and how to use it if desired. Other than being unsightly in otherwise groomed lawns and fields, I don’t know of any harmful effects from this invasive immigrant “weed”.
(Happy New Year’s Day, by the way! I hope you enjoy a year full of wonder and awe, with many hours spent in Nature’s outdoor classrooms!) See my New Year’s newsletter greeting card
Yellow Dock is edible and medicinal
This is a seedling growing next to the waterfall along our driveway. Anytime I find a seedling of a plant I’m pretty sure I know, but haven’t actually seen as a seedling before, I’ll watch it through the seasons next year to confirm its identity. I’m pretty sure this is yellow dock.
Yellow dock is an introduced species from Europe, a “weed”, and undesired by most people. It grows along roadsides, in disturbed places and usually in full sun. It’s an edible plant (young leaves, in small quantities, properly prepared) and the root is a “blood-building” tonic herb useful for anemia because it’s high in iron. It is a perennial, but the tops don’t die back unless winter is cold enough.
Given that our soil is high in iron, too, I would imagine that the yellow dock that grows here ought to be super-charged in that respect. Ha. It doesn’t always work that way, but if I were still working with access to laboratory instruments, that would be an easy enough thing to check. Sometimes more availability of a mineral (or metal, as is the case with iron) in the soil does lead to more uptake by the plant.
This summer I’ll try to remember to get a picture of the plant with seeds on it. They make a russet dried stalk of seeds and once you’ve had it pointed out to you, if you don’t already know the plant, you’ll see it everywhere after that.
How to eat yellow dock
To properly prepare the leaves for eating, treat them like mustard greens with a lot of bite. Use young leaves, boil a few minutes, pour off the water and boil again in fresh water. A few boil and water changes ought to be enough. This is also the way to prepare poke (also sometimes called poke sallet). After the boil/rinse process, some people like to lightly saute the herb with bacon and onions. I find it hard to believe there’d be much vitamin content left in anything after this kind of treatment, though it still said that mustard greens are good for us and they’re usually cooked to death, too.
In a survival type of situation, this is a plant you will not want to eat in large quantities. The oxalic acid in the leaves that give it the sour flavor can cause kidney stones and urinary system irritation. This same oxalic acid is present in many of the usual leafy green things people eat, like spinach, mustard and turnip greens and kale. These greens normally do take up small places on the plate anyway.
To use medicinally
The roots can be dried and chopped up to use for making a “spring tonic” broth with other herbs, or ground into a powder and put in capsules. It can also be tinctured. If I were using it to fortify blood iron levels, I would chop and make a strong tea or decoction of the fresh root. If I wanted to use it as a liver tonic, which would mean longer term use, I’d probably use the capsules. The root is bitter and because of that it will increase bile production, which will in turn promote bowel movements. In some people it might cause stomach distress and diarrhea.
In my distant past I lost a lot of blood during a surgery and was very weak and “shocky” afterwards. The doctor said if I didn’t get a transfusion it could take a week or more to “build my blood” enough for me to regain enough strength to even stand. If I would have had the roots of yellow dock on hand, and if I didn’t have children at home that needed me back on my feet quickly, I might have tried that to see if yellow dock root broth would help. Instead, I opted for the transfusion. In a survival-type of situation, that might not be an available option, so I am glad to know about yellow dock and the blood-building properties it possesses.
Here’s an excellent website to learn more about the various ways plants can be used. I visit this site often, so if this yellow dock post of mine interested you, bookmark this link as well: http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/cook/RUMEX_CRISPUS.htm
What are your favorite wild edible plants?