Foraging Yellow Dock + Yellow Dock Enchilada Recipe

Yellow dock
I've made it a habit to try to identify every weed that tends to grow in my yard; it's surprising how many are edible. Among my family's favorites is yellow dock (Rumex crispus; also known as curly dock).

Yellow dock makes it's first appearance in spring, as a plant with leaves that roll in on themselves like a cigarette or cigar. As the plant ages, the leaves at the bottom open up and grow quite large, and the plant grows taller, producing small, curled leaves at the top as it grows. Finally, the plant produces seeds - first green, then reddish brown. The leaves, seeds, and even the root of this plant are edible.

To identify yellow dock, look for arrow shaped leaves with the split, rounded shape of a heart near the stem. There is only one leaf per stem. Young stems are a pale green with reddish brown spots; older stems (such as the ones in the photo to the right) are mostly green. Fully opened leaves have reddish brown spots on them. If you're unsure if a plant is yellow dock, wait for the seeds to appear and turn their distinctive reddish brown.

Yellow dock leaves
Yellow dock's distinctive seeds.
Close up of yellow dock seeds.

Eating Yellow Dock Leaves

This is the most common part of the plant to eat. Once cooked, the leaves taste very much like spinach and are rich in vitamins C and A, iron, calcium, potassium, and beta carotene - but they also contain oxalic acid - a common ingredient in certain wild plants, as well as rhubarb and chocolate. However, oxalic acid, unless consumed in small doses, can be poisonous, so it's vital to always cook yellow dock leaves; if done as described below, harmful amounts of oxalic acid are removed. To cook yellow dock leaves:

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a  boil.

2. Add clean, trimmed yellow dock leaves and boil for 1 minute.

3. Drain.

4. Repeat, using fresh water.

Note that, as with most plants, the larger the leaves are, the more bitter and fibrous they are. In cooking, use the leaves as you would cooked spinach. If you drain the leaves well after cooking them, you can also place them in a freezer bag and freeze them for later.

Eating Yellow Dock Seeds

Once the plant's seeds turn reddish brown, they are ready for harvesting.Stroke them off the plant with one hand, holding the branch over a container. Sift through the seeds and remove any debris. You may then toss the seeds into cooking oatmeal, or you may grind the seeds, hulls intact, with a coffee grinder, grain mill, or food processor (or, if you're really patient, a mortar and pestle). Now you've got yellow dock flour! Use it like any other flour - although I recommend adding some all purpose or whole wheat flour.

Yellow Dock Roots

Yellow dock roots are medicinal, and are harvested in the late summer or fall. They are long, so don't try to just pull up the plant; actually dig out the tap root instead. According to Web MD, yellow dock root is useful for inflammation and swelling in the respiratory tract and nasal passages. It's also a laxative and may aid the treatment of bacterial infections. It is also filled with antioxidants.

You may purchase the root in a capsule, or ready to drink as tea, or you may chop and dehydrate the roots, just like dandelions, to use for tea making.

You may also turn the roots into a tincture.
WARNING: If you have a history of oxalate kidney stones, you should not eat Yellow dock. 

Yellow Dock Enchilada Recipe

28 oz. red enchilada sauce

1 ½ cups yellow dock leaves, cooked

3 greens onions (scallions), chopped

1/3 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups shredded Co-Jack or cheddar cheese

½ lb. cooked ground beef or cooked, shredded chicken breast

About 8 (7 inch) flour tortillas

Sliced black olives (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a bowl, combine ½ cup enchilada sauce, dandelion leaves, onions, sour cream, and 1 cup cheese.
                                                            3. Spoon about ½ cup of enchilada sauce onto the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking dish.

4. Spoon about ¼ cup of the dandelion leaf mixture into a tortilla and roll up. Place, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

5. Spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. If using, scatter sliced black olives over the top.

6. Bake until cheese is melted and filling is bubbly, about 20 minutes.

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More yellow dock recipes:

Yellow dock seed crackers
Yellow dock clam soup

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