We’re talking about the Rumex with long taproots, such as Rumex crispus, commonly called curly dock, and Rumex obtusifolius, the broad-leaved dock. However, both plants have in the past been called ‘yellow dock’ from the color of the roots, which even William Cook notes are practically indistinguishable from each other. (The roots, not the foliage.)
So, are these dock roots edible?
The short answer is yes. They do however contain oxalic acid. Then again so do many other foods that people regularly consume, but which do not come with toxic warning labels, such as spinach, rhubarb, and *gasp* CHOCOLATE!!!
But can they be made into a mainstay food source by leeching out the oxalic acids and tannins?
This is a concept that’s been kicking around in my head for years. After much research, I simply could not find very many real references as to whether the root has been used as food in the past. One must note however, that the vast majority of the foods that the northeastern native Americans used were not recorded. Even though these plants are not native to North America, they still could have used them, as like any people, they were very opportunistic when new plants arrived.
Also, people tend to get trapped in tradition. Sometimes something is seen only as a food, or as a medicine, when in reality it can be and has been both, in the past.
So this concept of utilizing dock roots as food has intrigued me for quite a few years now.
Though I must say, having access to non-frozen ground and roots, a foraging forum pal of mine, Mozartghost, is doing the majority of the hands on testing on this, to which I salute him! 🙂
(Ye can read the original thread and ongoing discussion here.)
Most of the credit indeed goes to him for having the same concept and having the drive to go hands-on and do some real world experimenting.
It’s amazing how things that no one else seems to have thought of before eventually coalesce between a few people, and a ball gets rolling. I don’t think we are discovering anything new here. Simply RE-DISCOVERING knowledge that our ancestors likely had as common knowledge, but which has been lost to time.
Kind of like how people in South America could lose whole stone cities to the point that they’re covered in jungle, and they have no idea how to read or write, or even speak the language of their ancestors. (I also find it funny that it took Europeans to decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, as the native peoples had no idea what they said.)
Such could be the case here. Things are lost, and no one is left who remembers the many, varied, and real uses of many plants.
A lot of people would not bother with figuring out whether or not dock root is edible due to the oxalic acid content, and due to their being ‘better’ plants elsewhere for foraging purposes. Excuses abound.
But MANY foods throughout history have required extensive preparation beforehand before consumption. Sometimes for months or years beforehand. This is pre-planning at it’s finest, and taking advantage of a possible food source that most others would outright ignore.
Corn-based fuel was ignored for years until it became cheaper than petroleum based fuel. But when it was first approached it was seen as too costly. That’s not to say I agree with the food as fuel initiative, but it does highlight how something was seen as too costly or too bothersome… until the real world economy price point made it so.
So this may not be ‘useful’ now in a practical sense. But when that bag of potatoes quadruples in price, and then doubles again, it just may be handy to know. 🙂
DISCLAIMER: This is a private attempt to reclaim a possible lost food source for the good of most of humanity without certain pre-existing medical conditions which would preclude them from participating in consumption of said possible lost food product. This writer makes no claims of edibility, and in fact, urges people in the strongest possible terms to NOT participate in this experiment. If you do, you do so at your own risk, and claim all responsibility for your own actions onto yourself and agree to indemnify this writer, this blog, and everyone but yourself from any possible consequence of your actions.
So don’t get any ideas like this. 😉