The dock is coming in really thick right now. It's abundant at the edge of where they mow. I was able to gather a full canvas tote bag in ten minutes or so, and hardly made a dent in the amount of greens. But I had to pick quickly - there was a guy with a weed trimmer literally 20 feet behind me.
I don't know if it's this particular curly dock (rumex crispus), or it's all this mild, but I could not believe how good the leaves are raw. A slight acid taste, a little like wood sorrel, with only a trace of astringency, if any. Even the older leaves that are dark and somewhat eaten by bugs . . . they tend to have even less astringency than the young leaves. So I went ahead and picked the leaves at all stages, enough to fill a 2 gallon pot.
Here are two closeups of the wavy-edged leaves, a conspicuous feature of curly dock:
However, most of the silverberries we were picking were on bushes and hedges trimmed low to the ground. So a basket set on the ground would have worked fine. It's much easier to gather silverberries on the wild plants that are a mass of sprawling shoots - with the bushes, you often have to get down on the ground and look up underneath the dense foliage to spot all the clusters of berries, then reach in to grab them.
These berries are not only large, they are very sweet - there's quite a bit of flesh on them. I'm saving the seeds separately for my geurilla gardening from the previous silverberry seeds. It will be interesting to see which grow best from seed, and which produce the best harvest.
The light in this photo isn't great, but it shows how speckled with silver the berries are:
The pits are edible, in the sense they are not that hard and you can chew them up. But they have a dry bean flavor that I don't think is good, and it ruins the tart strawberry flavor of the flesh. Besides, it's better to save them for growing. But in a survival situation, who knows - they might be a decent food source.
On the 'bean' note, silverberries (eleagnus spp.) are one of the few nonlegumes that fix nitrogen in the soil via bacteria on the root nodules. And they make fabulous hedges - there's one dense hedge at least 10 feet high with a mockingbird nesting in it . . . the shoots climb on nearly 25 feet up a nearby red maple.
Here's an idea of the size of the berries:
Like most wild berries, the bigger the better - the sweeter, and milder.
I've also noticed the new growth on the common juniper is edible, just like the new growth on other conifers. It's packed with vitamins, and has a very mild juniper resin taste.
Here's a photo of Rachael and Brooke (my daughters, 11 and 9) in front of the azalea that's blooming everywhere:
We eat these azalea flowers all the time. They are very sweet. We just pinch off the base of the flowers and eat the rest. My daughters love them. They're sweet - lot of nectar. The best of all azalea flowers are the orange ones, called 'Flame Azalea'. The flowers are so sweet they taste like Orange Crush.
We've been eating azalea flowers in such abundance for so many years it was a big suprise to me to see that no one else considers them edible. Almost every site I find reports them as toxic. I understand they're in the rhododendron family, with its toxic leaves . . . but I am not at all convinced the flowers are toxic. They are too mild and sweet. It's like everything else with our native wild foods - a lot of suspicious information, that gets repeated endlessly.
However, regardless of my own opinion and experience, this link is worth checking out on the toxicity of all rhododendron species.