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Eat your weeds: Yellow Dock

Photo by Manfred Ruckszio

Clockwise from above: Wild Yellow Dock; Entire harvested plants of Yellow Curly Dock (Rumex) with roots, stems and leaves; The attractive seed pods.

Photo by Maxal Tamor
Photo by Chad Zuber

BOTANICAL NAME: Rumex crispus (Yellow Dock, Curly Dock, Narrow-leaved Dock)

FAMILY NAME: Polygonaceae (that’s the buckwheat family)

DESCRIPTION:

Yellow Dock is an abundant weed that commonly grows in disturbed damp soils. It is easily found in pastures, waterways, wetlands, riparian vegetation, roadsides and waste areas in temperate and sub-tropical regions. Remember, most roadside weeds are typically sprayed with herbicides, so avoid collecting there.

This plant has a lot to offer as a nutritious food, potent medicine, natural dye or unique cut flower.

PARTS USED:

  • Root (most commonly used)
  • Young leaves (like sorrel, these can be used in a salad and the young leaves are also yummy steamed)
  • Seeds (a nutritious food)

USES:

Yellow Dock is originally from Europe and has a wide array of medicinal uses. Traditionally it was for skin conditions (especially psoriasis), as a blood purifier, a slight laxative, cholagogue (to promote secretion of bile) and as an astringent bowel tonic. My favourite way to use it is as an iron tonic (the root) and as food (the seeds).

You can also pick the seeds in late summer and use them to make flour. You can use them as a substitute for rooibos tea as well. Once the seeds are harvested and processed, store them in an airtight jar.

Yellow Dock should not be taken if you have irritable bowel syndrome, renal stones or are pregnant.

FORAGING:

Dig the roots in the autumn, while young leaves are best picked in the spring and seeds can be harvested in summer and autumn.

If you are into wild and edible foods, this may become your new favourite foraging plant.

Yellow Dock is almost always in abundance and I’ve never felt like the plant could be over-harvested.

HOW TO HARVEST YELLOW DOCK SEEDS:

  1. To pull off the seeds, run your fingers down the stem.
  2. Heat a pan (cast iron is best) on medium-high. Add seeds and, stirring frequently, toast until they brown and give off a nutty smell (about 10 minutes). Only add small amounts of seeds at a time.
  3. Your seeds are now ready to eat as a snack or turn into flour. To process into flour, let the seeds cool and then grind in a good blender, a mortar and pestle or even a spice grinder. Try out the cracker recipe below.

EASY YELLOW DOCK SEED CRACKERS:

Time to prepare: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup crushed Yellow Dock seed
  • 1 cup flour of your choice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Water

Mix crushed Yellow Dock seeds, flour and salt.

Slowly add the water until the dough is pliable (not sticky).

On a well-floured surface, roll dough thinly.

Cut into your desired shapes.

Transfer them onto a well-greased baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes at 180Åã or until crisp.

YELLOW DOCK IRON TONIC SYRUP:

• 30 g of fresh Yellow Dock root (20 g if you’re using dry)

• 4 cups water

• ½  cup blackstrap molasses

Chop the root into pieces.

Combine the root and water and bring to a low simmer with the lid on.

Simmer until the water is reduced by half, to two cups.

Strain and discard the herb material, and add molasses.

Stir well and keep refrigerated.

Dose 1-2 tbsp up to twice daily. This syrup is an excellent source of iron and a great digestive aid. It can be taken before or after meals to enhance digestion. Lasts about two weeks in the fridge. Enjoy!

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