Collecting dock and dandelions has become almost second nature to me this season. I use ‘em up and then when I’m out walking the dogs I notice a dandelion here or a dock patch there, snip or pull and voila—they’re in my bag and back to the house at the ready for whenever I need them. This season there’ve been few gaps in the dock and dandelion provenance. Many thanks to mother earth for these free, organic staples.*
Dock in Alfredo Sauce with Pasta
“Every time we eat dock for dinner, we’re saving $3 on a bag of spinach,” I tell Gregg, who sautéed and served a good-sized batch with Alfredo sauce over pasta the other day. “Not to mention there’s less likelihood of getting salmonella!”
“I love dock,” Gregg responded. (As we have seen, however, pretty much anything in cream sauce seems to do the trick.)
The western, large-leafed dock (tentative ID: Rumex occidentalis) that grows in wet areas near our house makes an excellent vegetable. It takes only a few minutes to collect a decent amount from a good patch, and it’s easy to wash. Just chop it up and it cooks real nice!
Even the skinny-leafed willow dock, overlooked by some foragers on account of its smaller size, is lush with large basal leaves right now—at least this is the case at 10,500 feet in the Colorado Rockies where we live—so these are not too difficult to collect either. There’s a partially-developed property at the end of our road where the builders must have inadvertently transported dock seeds, because a short hike up the driveway yesterday revealed a veritable jungle of the healthiest willow dock plants I have ever seen!
I mean, seriously, how could I not collect them?
Scrambled Dock and Eggs
For a less complicated recipe, try scrambled dock (or almost any other wild edible plant) and eggs. Sautee the finely chopped plant until it turns gray-green and soft, varying quantity for desired flavor and texture; then add eggs and grated cheese, cook, scramble, and serve. Easy peasy!
Tuna Salad with Finely Chopped Dandelions
And then there are dandelions—those ubiquitous weeds that so many people spend so much time and money annihilating with poison that damages the environment, weeds that might even be passed up by foragers on account of their perceived bitterness.
Dandelions are an acquired taste, to be sure, and each part of the plant has its best season—but there are some safe standby recipes. Mine is tuna salad with finely chopped dandelions and onions, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. The dandies add a good, healthy, green texture that need not be overpowering if you tailor the quantity accordingly.
Lately I’ve been plucking whole small dandelion plants that have not yet blossomed. (I do take plants with buds, however, as they taste fine to me and I like the occasional yellow underdeveloped petals that end up in the mix.) Although plucking a whole plant from the crown up is bad practice with many wild edibles (as it can kill a plant)—truly what does it matter with dandies? They’re everywhere; most people hate them; and chances are unlikely that you’ll inadvertently exterminate a colony. About the only things you really have to worry about when collecting dandelions are chemical herbicides, car exhaust, and urine!
Whole Steamed Dandelions with Butter and Salt
A couple days ago I found the most beautiful dandelions ever (pictured at the start of this entry). I’m not talking dirt-covered, trod upon, bug-eaten oldies, I’m talking not-yet-flowering, bright green dandelions, their leaves reaching straight into the air towards the sun, like outstretched arms beckoning me to pick them. I plucked them whole, getting the crown and attached leaf stalks and leaves with each.
I couldn’t bear to chop them, so I steamed those beauties whole for 20-25 minutes and served with butter and salt alongside Gregg’s grilled hemp seed bison burgers. (The hemp seeds are hulled and marketed as “IsaCrunch” by Isagenix, the healthy supplement program in which Gregg participates. They do not contain THC and are supposedly a great source of Omege-3’s. Again, contact Gregg if you want to become an associate and start ordering this stuff for yourself!)
For the record, I did think there was a good chance the whole steamed dandelions would come out bitter—and they did, at least somewhat.
“I liked the dandelions,” Gregg asserted as I stooped to gather more of them on today’s dog-walk. He said the same thing on hemp-seed-bison-burger night, but I guess I must have showed some hesitation, because today he found it necessary to lecture me further. “I really don’t think the dandelions were bitter—they just tasted like dandelions.”
Dandelions are very healthy—that’s why early European settlers brought them to this land in the first place—so it makes sense to cultivate a taste for them. Fortunate is the forager whose boyfriend has done just that!
NOTE: The word “staple” usually refers to seeds or legumes that can be stored for long periods of time, so I am using this term loosely here.