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Recipes for Wild Docks (Rumex spp.)

Of the seven species of Docks known to occur here on Prince Edward Island (Canada), many are too bitter when mature to be enjoyed. But young leaves of Curled Dock (Rumex crispus, Photo 1, left) and Bitter Dock (Rumex obtusifolius, Photo 1, right) and are tasty and commonly eaten, especially early in spring.

Dock leaves are high in Iron, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A). Docks are also high in oxalic acid, and so raw leaves should be avoided by anyone with kidney issues (oxalic acid affects calcium uptake and can contribute to kidney stones). For most of us, oxalic acid is not a concern; common foods such as spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, and rhubarb all have levels of oxalic acid comparable to or higher than Docks.

Young leaves are best enjoyed raw in salads, sandwiches, and wraps. They are fine on their own, but feel free to mix them with commercial greens if you’re serving foraging-hesitant guests. You can find my recipe for a Homemade Dressing for Wild Greens in the Wild Food Recipes section of this blog that I’m confident you (and your guests) will love.

Older leaves (Photo 2) are tougher and more bitter, but very enjoyable when properly prepared. Cooking will reduce bitterness and can be as simple as sautéing in butter (or bacon fat!). If you like a bit of crunch, throw in a handful of Panko and top the whole thing with some Parmesan cheese when done.

Photo 2: Mature leaves of Curled Dock (left) and Bitter Dock (right).

Larger Dock leaves can be parboiled and used in place of cabbage or grape leaves in your favourite stuffed-leaf recipe. You can also make Dock chips by washing and drying the leaves very well, tossing them in oil, and placing them on a single layer on a baking sheet. Top with salt or seasonings of choice and bake at 300F for 10-15 minutes until crispy. Try not to let them brown, as that will enhance bitterness. If they don’t crisp up, they may not have been dry enough going into the oven – be sure to dry them well!

Here’s two recipes from Edible Garden Weeds of Canada (1978) that I like. Now you can give them a try!

Dock Chowder

2 tbsp butter

1 onion, chopped

3 cups dock leaves, washed and shredded

3 cups milk

3 cups fresh clams or oysters (I’m not a huge bivalve fan, so I substitute cod)

2 large potatoes, cooked and cubed (you want these just barely cooked, or even slightly undercooked)

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a pan and add chopped onion. Cook until lightly browned. Add Dock leaves and cook 1-2 minutes until wilted. Add milk, bivalves or fish, and potatoes. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes or until fish is cooked. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Dock Casserole

¼ cup water

2 cups Dock leaves, washed

¼ cup butter

2 tbsp grated or finely-chopped onion (I add 2 pressed garlic cloves, too)

2 tbsp flour

1 cup milk

3 eggs, hardboiled and sliced

½ cup Panko (toasted in butter is nice)

½ cup old cheddar, grated (asiago is also good here)

Boil water, add Dock leaves and simmer 3-4 minutes. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in a pan, add onion (and garlic, if using), and cook 1 minute. Add flour and combine well, then slowly add milk and stir well. Salt and pepper to taste, and cook until thickened. In a greased small casserole dish or loaf pan, arrange alternate layers of Dock leaves and egg slices. Pour sauce over the top and then spread Panko and cheese over it. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

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