Wild Edible Plants . . .

This site is a database for wild edible plants of North America. I encourage any users to leave comments reflecting their experiences with a certain plant. Much of our knowledge of edible plants is either lost, superstitious or incorrect. There's a lot of hype about how dangerous wild plants can be, when in reality most are not only safe they're critical for your health.

My perspective is somewhat unique in that my family and I have camped as a lifestyle for over a decade - essentially lived with edible plants and used them on a daily basis. We have also been raw fooders for a very long period. Becoming 100% raw vegan sparked my interest in edible plants like nothing else. Every day I was out hiking the trails barefoot, eating grass, eating flowers, trying parts of the many plants I came across with a clean palate . . .

Using wild edible plants is the best way we can defy the system, maintain our health, and get our independence back.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dock (rumex crispus)

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:

At home I steamed them using a waterless steam. I rinsed them off (they're low to the ground, and we've had a lot of rain, so they're somewhat gritty), then stuffed them in a large pot with a lid, and turned it on high for 5 minutes. The greens reduced almost to a tenth in size, became dark, and looked like any other steamed or sauteed greens. There was actually a small pool of water in the bottom from when I rinsed them off - next time I'll remove the water with a salad spinner, and steam them purely in their own juice.
The flavor was excellent. The slight sourness that comes with dock made the leaves taste slightly pickled - they had a pleasant acid taste. I noticed they had a strong cleansing effect also, and like any wild green, they're loaded with nutrients. I've read they were a major food source during the Great Depression.
Dock is in the buckwheat family, a highly edible family of plants, including buckwheat (the seed), rhubarb (the leaf stalk), and dock (the greens). It's best to think of dock as our native buckwheat. Wild dock seeds tend to have a lot of chaff, but I've still eaten them. Out in the Southwest the dock gets huge, with giant leaves - the plant is almost a small bush. The leaves are rather strong, but the seeds have a nice bacon flavor, even with all the chaff. The chaff you ignore like eating grass seed - a lot of chaff, but once you hit the seed inside, it tastes like bread.
The next wave of silverberries (eleagnus ebbingei) have come in, and the berries from these bushes are nearly twice the size. We gathered a bunch of them:
I made a new gathering bag specifically for the purpose of harvesting silverberries. It's important to have both hands free when you're picking food. This bag has a small rope which attaches to a belt loop - I made the bag out of canvas and wire . . . the wire is from a coat hanger I pulled apart, and it keeps the bag open so you don't have to hold it open as you pick:

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.


  1. Kudzu (or Kuzu) was eaten by the Japanese during hard times. It is highly nutritious (medicinal too) for people, livestock, chickens! People should eat it so it will not spread! Everything on it is edible from the roots to the shoots!

    High in protein and fiber.

  2. Forgot to say...Kudzu tastes like green peas.

  3. I chop up the dock greens.

    Sautee garlic in olive oil and throw in tomato then then dock. Slap on a lid and let it cook down for a bit. (Salt & pepper too!)

    Delish! (and free!)

  4. I had an incredibly spicy leftover Vietnamese soup on one hand, and 4 or 5 clumps of tender, large Curly Dock greens that I'd just "weeded" out of the orchard garden and strawberry patch. Came across your blogsite while looking for likely recipes. I ended up de-ribbing and pot-steaming the dock greens with some Wood Sorrel leaves and peppermint leaves until mushy, then adding the super spicy Vietnamese soup. The "sour" mellowed the spicy and the soup was DEEELICIOUS!

  5. I had tasted dock a couple of times, never did much with it. But I put in a greenhouse last fall and some dock came up in it very early in the spring, was ready before the wintered over spinach. So I started eating it. It was much cleaner and easier to take care of than plants living among grass, and I found it to taste very good, as described above. Now the wild dock has gone to seed (July) but in the green house, I have been chopping it back and it just resprouts tender and good again, very quickly, too. Doesn't bolt like spinach and lettuce. I'm going to stay after it all summer and see what happens. May be the easiest and most rewarding garden green I ever grew! I would say 3-6 plants would probably supply all the greens we need all summer.

  6. Funny my horses won't touch curly dock!

    1. That's a good thing. It's toxic to them, I believe.

  7. where do you get the seed in ca. never heard of dock. would like to try it

  8. we've got curly dock all over northern California. it's rusty brown at this point, anywhere from 1-4 feet high, with a gob of seeds all along the top 6-8 inches of the single tall stalk. you'll really notice it against all the dried grasses; it's slightly redder than the brown background of this website.