Many invasive species in the Sea to Sky are edible or have medicinal qualities. That is, after all, why many of them were brought here in the first place. Curled Dock is an example of one of these edible invasives that can be spotted throughout our region. It can be seen at roadsides, in disturbed areas and in fields. Curled Dock stands out in late summer and fall with its dense clusters of reddish-brown seeds.
While eating these invasives may not be a way to eradicate them completely, it will at least prevent some of their spread! As with other edible invasive plants, please stick to foraging, and don’t intentionally plant them in your yard!
Read on for more information on Curled Dock and how to collect it, as well as a recipe for Curled Dock seed crackers.
Curled Dock (Rumex crispus) typically grows 0.5 – 1 m tall, making it quite easy to spot. Curled Dock has tall, erect single stems that bear small flowers. The small, greenish flowers eventually mature into green fruits called achenes that contain one seed each. Over time, these fruits dry out and turn reddish-brown. They remain on the stem for a long time, throughout the fall.
Curled Dock leaves are oblong and slightly rounded at the base with pointed tips and wavy edges. These leaves are 10 – 30 cm long, growing smaller higher up the stem. This species grows a thick, yellow taproot that can reach 1 m deep, making it difficult to remove.
A single Curled Dock plant can produce 3000-4000 seeds, making it a prolific spreader. Introduced from Eurasia, it thrives in most conditions in disturbed areas. It outcompetes native plants, which reduces local biodiversity. This species is toxic to cattle, horses, and sheep, and its seeds are toxic to chickens, so having this species around livestock is not ideal. It can be distinguished from a similar plant, Broadleaved Dock, as this plant has large, heart-shaped leaves. However, Broadleaved Dock is also edible.
Several parts of Curled Dock are edible. Since the leaves contain oxalic acid, which makes things taste bitter, very young leaves are much more palatable than older ones and can be eaten raw. The seeds are much less bitter than the leaves and very easy to harvest. Stems that have not yet flowered are also edible – simply peel back the tough outer skin to get to the more tender core.
Young Curled Dock
Curled Dock with Immature Fruits
Curled Dock with Mature Fruits
Collecting Curled Dock Seeds
Collecting Curled Dock seeds is quite straightforward. From late summer through to winter, the clusters of seeds are easy to spot. Remember to follow our recommendations for best practices when foraging or collecting wild invasives.
The best way to harvest these invasive’s seeds while avoiding spreading them further is to cut the stem below the clusters of seeds, and remove the seeds from the stems either indoors or over a sheet, table cloth or tarp to collect any strays. Six to seven stems worth of seeds should yield approximately 1 cup of Curled Dock seed flour.
Run your fingers down the stems to remove the seeds, and simply collect them in a container. Make sure to dispose of all unwanted plant parts in the garbage, not the compost.
Curled Dock Seeds
Making Curled Dock Seed Flour
Once you have collected your seeds, you may notice that they have a dry, papery coating called chaff. It is quite difficult to remove and separate the chaff from the seeds, so most people leave it on and view it as an extra boost in fibre. However, if you do decide to remove it, this is most easily done after toasting the seeds.
To toast the Curled Dock seeds, preheat your oven to 350F. Once preheated, spread the seeds on a baking sheet and place them on a rack near the top of your oven. Toast for 5-7 minutes, until seeds are more golden-brown and completely dry but not burnt. Let cool slightly before grinding into a fine powder using a high-powered blender, a food processor or a mortar and pestle.
Taste your flower – if it’s too bitter, place it in a jar with enough cold water to cover it, and leave it for 24 hours, shaking occasionally. Soaking the flour will remove some of the oxalic acid from the chaff, which tends to be a little bitter. Repeat if necessary using fresh water. Strain through a cloth to remove the water.
Curled Dock Seed Crackers
Adapted from recipe by Home Grown Hand Gathered
- 1 cup Curled Dock seed flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp onion-garlic seasoning
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add seasonings to your liking.
- Add water a little at a time until the mixture holds together but isn’t too sticky. Use more or less water as needed. Knead for a few minutes until well incorporated, form into a ball, and leave covered for 10 minutes.
- Lay out the dough on a piece of parchment paper or a greased, floured baking sheet and roll out until it forms a rectangle about 3 mm thick. Cut into cracker shapes (be creative – why not reuse those holiday cookie cutters?).
- Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until dry and crisp, flipping the crackers halfway through. Let them cool completely before storing them in an airtight container for up to a week.