Survival food: Dock

Posted: March 31, 2014 by Rex Trulove in Survival, survival food, wild food
Tags: , , , , ,

ImageThere are quite a few species of dock, but one of the most widespread is curled dock (Rumex crispus), sometimes called yellow dock. Curled dock can be found in most states and many provinces, but it isn’t native to North America. It came from Europe and Asia. This plant is considered to be a weed in North America and Europe, but it has good food and medicinal value. It is also now found in South America, New Zealand and Australia.

This wild herb can be found in places where the ground has been disturbed, including waysides, fields, gardens, vacant lots, forest borders, fence lines and along trails. The leaves are several times longer than they are wide and they taper to a point. There is a strong mid vein in the leaf and in Rumex crispus, the edges of the leaves are wavy, hence the common name. The plant puts up a flower stalk from the center of a rosette of leaves and this can become several feet in height. The flowers aren’t appealing, but dock produces copious numbers of seeds.

Once fully mature, the plant becomes deep reddish brown or burnt orange. The edibility is confined primarily to the leaves of young plants. Once they become older, the flavor becomes strong and bitter.

Caution: Like the closely related sorrel, this plant contails oxalic acid. It should not be eaten in large amounts and should not be eaten by nursing women. (Oxalic acid is what makes rhubarb leaves poisonous.) In sensitive people, oxalic acid can cause stomach distress and kidney stones.

The young leaves are sometimes added to to salads, and the leaves can be boiled or steamed as a potherb. Boiling the leaves in a couple changes of water helps to remove some of the oxalic acid, though this is seldom an issue in the young leaves as long as the helpings are moderate. The flavor is pleasantly sour, almost lemony, because of the acid. The seeds can also be dried and ground into flour.

Though the plant can be useful as a food for someone who is trying to survive a calamity, the biggest value is medicinal. While the older leaves are usually too bitter to eat, they can still be used for medical purposes.

A tea made from the leaves is very high in iron and has been used for a very long time to treat people who are anemic, including pregnant women or women who are menstuating. The tea can be helpful for people who have lost blood, as it can encourage the production on red blood cells. Unlike many high-iron sources, dock doesn’t usually cause constipation.

The crushed leaves can also be applied directly to rashes and stings, for fast relief. This property is mentioned in an old saying: Dock in, nettle out, dock rub nettle out. The reference is to the rash of stinging nettles. Rubbing dock leaves against the burning rash caused by the nettles causes relief almost immediately. Interestingly, dock can usually be found nearby where stinging nettles are growing. Externally, the leaves are also used on cuts and sores.

Dock roots are laxative, and a strong infusion or tea of the roots, mixed with vinegar, has been used effectively to treat ringworm.

Survivalists and others can take advantage of this plant, both as a food source and medicinally. It usually isn’t too hard to find or to identify. Some people also enjoy the flavor of the young leaves, myself included.

The last survival food in this series:


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