Monthly Archives: July 2013
Yellow dock/Curly dock
with green leaves, new green seeds and rust/red colored mature seeds.
Common names: Curly Dock, Yellow Dock, Yaller Dock, Sour Dock, Narrowleaf Dock, Curled Dock
Many species of Rumex exist.
Grows throughout U.S.
Originally from Europe and North Africa and West Asia. Has naturalized in many places of the world.
* * * * * * * * * * *…………………………………………………………………………………..
Caution: The word dock is a nickname for two Very Different Plants.
Here is my post about Burdock
The roots have much different effects.
Both have medicinal effects. Whereas burdock can be used as a vegetable and yellow dock/curly dock cannot be eaten in large quantities due to undesired/dangerous gastronomical effects!
*I am not an expert. A happy enthusiast for sure! Please seek expert advice when foraging foods!*
Back to Rumex crispus … Curly dock/Yellow dock
See USDA database:
And throughout the world:
Geographical range Native range: Africa; temperate and tropical Asia, India and Europe (USDA-ARS, 2010). Known introduced range: Continental Asia, Japan, North and South America, North and South Africa,Australia and New Zealand (USDA-ARS, 2010).
rumex leaves early fall/late summer
field of red/rust seed heads:
Grows to 2 to 5 feet tall
Seeds are viable in soil for 80+/- years
Can produce 29,000 seeds per plant
Habitat: Sides of Roads, Ditches, Fields, Meadows, Gardens, Woodlands, Grassy areas, Agricultural areas, Pastures
Can grow in sandy, loamy or heavy clay soils
Edible Parts: Leaves, Seeds
***Toxic to horses, cattle, sheep and poultry***
*caution needed for animals
Medicinal parts: Roots and to varying degrees leaves and seeds
Red Sorrel in the Buckwheat family.
I definitely want to look for and forage this lovely plant in the same family as Curly Dock!
Common Name: Sheeps Sorrel
Has characteristic arrow head shaped leaves
See links below for more information:
Image from above site.
Red Sorrel Leaf:
Leaves are important identifiers. In this case, Rumex crispus leaves have a curly wavy edge.
(Although Red Sorrel and Curly Dock are both edible…leaves are good distinguishers. Seeds are both shiny and brown. Getting sure with identification is essential and can save you from harm!)
With other Rumex species it may be better to distinguish between the fruit/seeds pattern of clumps of seeds too.
*Here is an informative site with leaf patterns of other docks:
Try learning one plant at a time really well. This may mean you will be learning about a lot of other plants that way…by comparing and distinguishing.
This is how I got acquainted with Red Sorrel!
Here is a picture of the Rumex crispus/Curly Dock leaves with newly mature rust brown seeds in mid July Wyoming.
See Plant Photos
Confirm with Field Guide/expert
-Grows from a basal set of leaves
-Leaves are smooth with a distinctive wavy and curly edge
-Lanceolate leaves are long and taper off
-It flowers June through October
southern hemisphere: (summer through mid fall)
-***Seeds ripen July through October.
Southern hemisphere: (Mid summer through mid fall)
-Seeds are rust colored, large long clusters of seeds.Triangulate and small. Become crimson rust colored when drying/dried out.
-Reproduces most by seed.
Foraging Tips:And Some Good Basics about Rumex crispus.
-Avoid areas near agricultural areas because of fertilizer and/or herbicide run-off.
-Avoid areas that look brown or dead compared to other green areas. This can indicate use of toxic herbicide
-Avoid areas with too much exhaust or pollutants
-*Mullein (see my post on Mullein) is a good soil indicator. When its long stalk is crooked or bent it often indicates soil pollution.
-Check on what Mullein looks like if it is nearby where you are foraging. Straight stalk is a good sign.
Still check for other signs of pollutants.
-When composting/discarding remnants consider volunteers that may grow
Toxic to horses, cattle, sheep, poultry and perhaps other animals.
-do not completely strip stalk it propagates mainly by seed unless you need to rid it of your land,
(might as well harvest.)
-*Also flowers and seeds/plant is habitat to many butterfly species and other wildlife.
-harvest spring leaves
-learn to identify leaves and fruit/seeds of plant you wish to harvest
-new leaves in spring often emerge at base of previous year’s stalks
-Be sure to harvest that year’s seeds.
Older stalks and seeds can stand for a year or more. May be moldy, too weathered, ridden with insects, etc.
-It is an oxalate food so consume in moderation
-New leaves have mucilaginous and slimy surface underneath leaf in spring. This can help with identification.
-The root is a yellow, large taproot which can fork off.
-Seeds are surrounded by calyx of flower and green when new and reddish brown when mature.
-Has many medicinal uses. Seek professional assistance with use.
-Please see medicinal use and cautionary notes at end of post:
Getting to Know You
After a number of months researching and asking questions to myself and others…I finally wild harvested some Curly Dock!
Here is a fun art query I made about curly dock. Reaching out to any friends on facebook who might know what this plant was that had me so intrigued. A friend of mine thought it might be sorghum. It is unclear to tell from the picture. But, Rumex crispus it is! 🙂
STORY OF PLACE.
EACH PLACE HAS A STORY. AND THE STORIES ARE INNUMERABLE DEPENDING ON THE TELLER AND THE TOLD. HERE IS ONE STORY OF CURLY DOCK
AND WHERE IT FOUND ITS PLACE.
Finally, after a lot of researching I discovered the mystery plant was Curly Dock or Yellow Dock as it is also known. I had heard of Yellow Dock’s medicinal uses. Funny how powerful it can be to recognize a plant and then realize you knew of healing uses of the plant all along. But, what good would that use be when foraging wild foods/medicinal herbs if one could not properly identify it?
Well, my time finally came.
Rumex crispus…where to begin?
I have been fascinated with the rust-red seeds on dried stalks as we dash down the highway for quite a few months now, if not years!
Often by ditches, sides of roads or fields. Growing together wild. Often as if sown in a row.
The color of Rumex crispus changes. When the seed first emerges it is green.
Then it matures to a red-rust color.
***The following picture was taken in early spring and from a plant that already matured previously. Not suitable for foraging at this stage.
From previous year’s growth.
They are beautiful and easy to identify at this stage.
Greener seeds earlier in the season
The idea of foraging a grain felt so satisfying. Like a precursor to the advent of domestic agriculture.
Foraging in favorite spots or telling areas that often yield curly dock.
Save some for sowing along trails you frequent year to year. Make flour from the seeds. Grow some in your garden! Even eat raw when hiking along.
Rumex crispus a.k.a. Curly dock or Yellow dock is a perennial. A welcome friend to see. It is a rich food source and healing herb.
It is buckwheat! Wild buckwheat, in fact!
After a lot of research and hunches and taking photos of the curly dock I came across…it was when I was in Wyoming at Elk Mountain in the Medicine Bow Range where I first foraged the Curly dock.
Unfortunately, or maybe appropriately, my camera was acting up that day so I do not have pictures of the stone circle/tipi ring that was nearby the stand of Curly dock.
*Scratch that! Several weeks later, I got a second time through. The sun was bright and I had trouble seeing but I got some images of the stone circle tipi ring!
And, here is the stone circle tipi ring.
(More info on stone circles North America)
It felt like a special place. Wyoming has spectacular views and a stone circle reminds me of people who lived thousands of years before. Waking up and living next to and admiring the same view of mountains that I was enjoying that one beautiful July day.
With Curly dock nearby…I wondered. I am not a botanist but, still… my imagination can be far reaching and without knowing for sure, my curiosity and imagination still wandered.
Curly dock is a perennial. It comes back year after year. Could I be harvesting from the same stands/offsprings of curly dock that grew all those thousands of years ago. I know this sounds hokey.
But, the simplest most plain of things can be the most profound. A perennial returns from the same source. Year after year. Perennial plants fascinate me and provide that link through time. Just as we are all connected to our ancestors from times past.
And stone circles and perennial plants reflect to us a continuance!
Annual plants are connected to predecessors over time as are perennials. It just seems more hit or miss. Or is it? Some annual plants have a quarter million seeds or more per plant like purslane does. So the purslane carries on just fine. Nevermind that the seeds can last decades! Time traveler! 🙂 Like plants we are all connected to our ancestors from times past.
At this stone circle site, did the people here also forage curly dock? It is likely because it has a longstanding history of use by original peoples of North America.
Also, I had a hunch that stone circles remain from dwellings not just in North America. Stone circles have also been found all over the world. Some being connected to portable dwellings, while others are significant as religious or ceremonial sites. Signifying respect. A stone left unturned could be the next story to come along.
(Here is some interesting information on the history of architecture and stone rings worldwide plus other use of stone:)
Here is info on annuals, perennials, biennials and frost tender perennials.
NUTRITION of Rumex crispus
a.k.a. Curly Dock/Yellow Dock
*Minerals: calcium, phosphorus, iron
*Vitamins: A, C, Thiamine, Riboflavin,
Additionally from this source:
Among its nutritional components, John Kallas (2010) explains, “Curly dock leaves are high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and zinc” and the seeds are “rich in calcium and fiber while low in protein and fat.”
FOOD USES of CURLY DOCK and HULLING SEEDS:
When to Harvest Curly Dock:
*Something I have observed is that Curly Dock is a perennial so its beautiful crimson/rust seed heads can last well into the next growing seasons.
They are usually missing leaves (identifiers) at this stage. In some regions this stalk could be a few years old. The stalk will look brown and dried out and hollow. The seeds can still be attached…but will not be as fresh and more prone to mold, insects, etc.
So look for stalks/seeds that have just matured in the summer to early fall.
The basal leaves are usually gone but you will notice leaves will still remain on stalk and if early enough in the mature season for harvesting seeds…leaves will still remain near the base.
The pictures I have posted of the rust colored seeds also still have live leaves visible. See pictures below:
The leaves are best young in the spring time.
They can be used in salads or boiled/prepared as a green.
Eat in moderation. The leaves and perhaps other parts of the plant are high in oxalic acid.
Boiling leaves in multiple changes of water may help to reduce oxalic acid.
*Oxalic acid is common in many foods such as: beets, swiss chard, broccoli, etc.
But,anyone with kidney problems/stones or urinary tract problems should be careful with eating oxalate foods.
Some sources such as livestrong.com mention that adding citrus to oxalate foods may decrease oxalic acid effects but it is not conclusive.
Eat in moderation or avoid oxalate foods if a health condition indicates so.
Seek medical advice if concern exists.
The seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, ground into a flour, hulled and ground into a flour, boiled and also prepared/eaten with outer husks. Just consider there will be extra fiber in your meal!
The seeds are small and may be difficult to hull.
Some people suggest dry roasting mature seeds in a pan and rubbing away the heat dried husk. Between your hands or with a rolling pin…and then blow or use a light fan or breeze to whisk the husk chaff away from the seed.
I found this post on a comment thread that looked like a helpful way to remove the husk from the seed.
TIPS ON HULLING SEEDS:
Post by: Mike Fitzugh, on Jun 26, 2013 17:08:41
Get some aluminum window screen from the hardware store. (Fiberglass screen is what most modern window screens are made of and I think it’s too flimsy for this project, but maybe you can get it to work). Staple TWO LAYERS of this screen very tightly across a rectangular wooden frame. You want the screen taught enough so that the two screen layers are lying right next to each other. Note the point of doubling the screen thickness is to make the gap or holes in the screen effectively smaller (when layered) so, make sure the holes in the two layers are offset from each other when stapling.
Place this frame over a pan, cookie sheet, the ground–or wherever you want to catch the chaff. Now take 1/4 cup of VERY DRY dock seeds and put them in the middle of the screen frame. Rub the seeds back and forth across the screen with your fingers. Very quickly the chaff will fall through the gaps in the screen leaving the seeds on top. Brush the seeds off the top of the frame into a dish or bag. Voila! Separated seeds!
You might need to experiment with the dock seeds from your particular part of the world (or the screen size from your particular hardware store). In my climate (mountain, high desert) the dock seeds are quite small and fall through the gaps in the screen along with the chaff unless I double-layer the screen. …But even in that case (a single layer screen), the seeds that fall through are easily recovered by winnowing as described by Jon above. The rubbing of the seeds on the screen turns the chaff into a very fine dust which is easily blown away.
Recipe ideas and Recipes!
DO YOU LIKE GALLETE?
Personally, I want to make Curly Dock flour and make Gallete. (I am looking to find a suribachi to use for grinding the dock seeds.) Gallete is a French crepe traditionally made with buckwheat.
And Curly Dock is wild buckwheat. I look forward to this culinary adventure. And, will keep you posted!
Here is an interesting recipe for
Curly dock/Yellow dock Seed Crackers.
Use a blender/spice mill or mortar and pestle/suribachi to grind seeds too!
(Store extra dry dock seed flour in a jar, and whole seeds in a paper bag.)
Mix together :
one cup of dock seed flour
one teaspoon of salt
and one cup flour of your choice. (My favorites are whole-wheat pastry flour and rye flour.)
Mix in enough water to make pliable, but not sticky dough.
On a well-floured surface, roll dough as thin as possible. Cut into desired shapes or transfer it whole to a well-oiled cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 -12 minutes at 375 O or until crisp.
From this great site:
What about Curly Dock Pancakes? Folks from this site have a great recipe! Some of the recipe is measured out in grams. (Site for gram:ounce conversion below pancake recipe site)
Have You Ever Thought of Making Your Own Bitters for Club Soda or Alcoholic Drinks?
Check this out!
Yellow dock a.k.a. Curly dock is listed as well as other roots and herbs.
Bartenders and Enthusiasts alike are creating their own bitters.
Here is a recipe!
***(Please Consult a Health/Herbal Professional When Using Curly Dock medicinally.)
Alterative; Antiscorbutic; Astringent; Cancer; Cholagogue; Depurative; Homeopathy; Laxative; Poultice; Salve; Tonic.
Curly dock has a long history of domestic herbal use. It is a gentle and safe laxative, less powerful than rhubarb in its action so it is particularly useful in the treatment of mild constipation. The plant has valuable cleansing properties and is useful for treating a wide range of skin problems. All parts of the plant can be used, though the root is most active medicinally. The root is alterative, antiscorbutic, astringent, cholagogue, depurative, laxative and mildly tonic[4, 21, 46, 94, 165]. It used to be sold as a tonic and laxative. It can cause or relieve diarrhoea according to the dose, harvest time and relative concentrations of tannin(astringent) and anthraquinones (laxative) that are present. It is used internally in the treatment of constipation, diarrhoea, piles, bleeding of the lungs, various blood complaints and also chronic skin diseases[4, 238, 257]. Externally, the root can be mashed and used as a poultice and salve, or dried and used as a dusting powder, on sores, ulcers, wounds and various other skin problems. The root has been used with positive effect to restrain the inroads made by cancer, being used as an alterative and tonic. The root is harvested in early spring and dried for later use. Some caution is advised in its use since excess doses can cause gastric disturbance, nausea and dermatitis[222, 238]. The seed is used in the treatment of diarrhoea[4, 218]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh root, harvested in the autumn before frost has touched the plant. It is only used in the treatment of a specific type of cough. Other Uses Compost; Dye.
Yellow, dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots. They do not need a mordant. An alternative ingredient of ‘QR’ herbal compost activator. (is it the flowers?) This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost[K].
*Here is a comprehensive site about healing uses of Curly/Yellow Dock. Also information on when to harvest the root and what year plant to harvest roots from. (Harvest in fall…)
See following site for more info on medicinal uses of root and the plant.
Thankyou for joining me on an exploration.
From stone circle tipi rings…near where I first harvested Curly Dock…a circular path like the perennial nature of Rumex crispus. Knowledge is best layered with experience and I am still learning. In this way knowledge is like a branch that reaches back and forth. Now between me and you and I am grateful!
Nicknames: Cheeseweed, Dwarf Mallow, Round Mallow, Cheese Plant
***important…please do not confuse Common Mallow with the Common Carolina Geranium Weed. The geranium weed has more deeply dissected leaves but these two can be easily confused!***
Please note image of the Carolina Geranium weed in the following site:
More about Common Mallow
Habitat: grows in areas where
soil has been disturbed:
Sides of roads
Likes sandy soil
Can grow in clay
or loamy soil
Likes full sunlight
Can do partial shade
Can grow with some dampness in soil
Prefers well drained soil
Can grow up to 2 feet tall
All parts including roots are edible
The following site is comprehensive and gives information on planting, pollination, avoiding nitrates, hardiness zones, where it grows in the world, etc.
These are all my photos. A happy endeavor and a learning reference tool also! Please bring a good field guide or forager who knows!
*Some people have confused ground ivy with common mallow!*
Some ground ivy smells like mint.
And, the edible ground ivy is in the mint family.
This is ground Ivy!
Some ground ivy is edible*** but not all ground cover is edible.***
Here are sites on edible ground ivy
Now back to Common Mallow:
According to http://www.livestrong.com:
Historians have traced Malva neglecta’s use as a vegetable back almost 3,000 years. The ancients used leaves and shoots as cooking greens and salad ingredients, while the seeds were used to accent dishes or as snacks. The plant’s traditional medicinal uses included soothing skin rashes and easing coughs. It was also used to reduce inflammation in the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
Not far away from this plant was this beautiful bridge above the Snake River.
INSIGHT AND REFLECTIONS:
I found the common mallow about 3 miles away from the Snake River Gorge in Idaho. This bridge and shadow forms an ellipse. A path that brings you back. After an orbit of other experiences. Like a marker in time. It helps me reflect upon the fact that the common mallow was the first edible/medicinal weed I learned about on this journey of documenting wild plants. It caught my interest as I was web surfing wild edible and medicinal plants. I posted it on facebook to share with others. I had found a helpful site…all about common mallow. Malva neglecta. I wanted to share an interesting site. That event was a marker for me. A few months later, I started writing and researching and photographing wild edibles myself. I started the blog that you are reading now. Malva neglecta took me on a journey. An elliptical one. Like an orbit. I am changed now since I first posted an internet site about common mallow. Because, it caught my interest then. And, now I have first hand experience looking for, researching and eating mallow as a wild edible. I have come around the ellipse changed. And, malva neglecta got me there. Waiting for me to turn the bend around the ellipse to find it in real space and time.
I am learning a lot about wild edibles. Documenting and photographing plants when and where I can. I am an enthusiast and a student as I go. I research as much as I can.
I wonder too, about the qualities each plant contains. Common mallow is mucilaginous and soothing. It helps with stomach upset. It soothes skin abrasians and heals skin wounds. It is common. It is found many places in the world. It has been a food during times of starvation. It is nutrient rich and is related to such beautiful plants as hollyhock and the beautiful Rose of Sharon. Even jute leaves are edible. The mallow family has taught me a lot and I have only just begun.
I did an art and poetry piece about common mallow: Malva neglecta. Reflecting on what I have learned about the plant and how it reflects some learning in my life.
So learning about plants and wild edibles and medicinal edibles means you get to “get real” about the experience. So, the next day after locating some and photographing it, I picked some common mallow for the first time. I wonder how many of my ancestors foraged for mallow too? I was excited about foraging. It did not look like an area that had experienced run off from farms or other pollutants. Common mallow can absorb nitrates from contaminated soil so some caution here is warranted.
But, it looked like a good foraging area to me so I went and picked some.
I tried some common mallow along with young lettuce leaves. What I noticed is that soon after I picked it the mallow wilted quickly.
I have limited refrigeration as I travel so I put the mallow in a bowl with a bit of water to keep it from wilting too much. I harvested at noon so the noon heat in Idaho in July may have contributed to the wilting. When I took the mallow out later they had absorbed the water and looked perky again.
I harvested the small wheels of fruit which people say look a lot like small wheels of cheese. I foraged the flowers, flower buds, stems and leaves too.
I boiled them for just a few minutes. They were delightful tasting. They could easily substitute or be mixed with spinach either raw or cooked.
I had a very favorable experience foraging Malva neglecta. I hope you do too!
(On a cautionary note here is some information about nitrates:)
While learning about foraging and wild edibles and medicinal plants, I really enjoy and appreciate this perspective by Susun Weed:
“Let’s focus on the Malvaceae family for a moment. One of my favorite ways of learning — and teaching — about plants is through their families. Each plant family is a group of plants that has the same flower chacteristics. Interestingly enough, the plants in a family frequently have the similar actions and uses. Learning about a plant family, rather than just one plant, not only helps you identify more plants, it gives you an idea of how to use them.”
HEALING PROPERTIES and FOOD USE:
Also according to Susun Weed:
“Virtually all parts of the mallows have been eaten or used as medicine including the fresh leaves, dried leaves, fresh roots, dried roots, and both green and ripe seeds.
The primary effect of most mallows is to soothe and heal mucus surfaces. Overheated respiratory, digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems especially benefit.
The mucilage present in the roots and seeds, and to a lesser degree the leaves, can help ease and heal irritations and infections such as sore throats, acid indigestion, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, bronchitis, chronic coughs, badder infections, interstitial cystitis, colds, and dry mouth. Some sources find mallow medicine helpful for those with diabetes, painful periods, and lack of menstruation.”
The mallow family includes beautiful, edible, medicinal, and useful plants such as hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, hollyhock, marshmallow, okra, jute, and cotton. (Cotton is not edible)
Susun Weed also describes mallow’s benefits including malva neglecta:
Excellent for “healing and relieving the pain of cuts, scrapes, boils, bruises, swellings, and stings…
I (Susun Weed) especially likes mixing chopped fresh hibiscus or mallow leaves with honey and applying this to my eyelids to relieve tired, sore, dry eyes. Works great as a facial, too!”
I found the following site and cited text very helpful.
“Uses Commonly used as a demulcent or emollient (7). Stems and leaves can be made as a poultice to relive pain and inflammation (7). Tea is pleasant tasting, good for sore throats and tonsillitis(7). Traditionally drunk in New Mexico for facilitation of labor and as a wash for skin irritations in infants (7). The tea can also help indigestion, stomach sensitivity, and can be gargled for cough relief (8). Entire plant has been boiled and eaten esp. used in soups; flowers are more pleasant in taste (2). Flowers are popularly eaten after being pickled (2). Leaves and young fruits have been used in salads (2).”
TRADITIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN USE:
“The Cherokee Indians put the flowers in oil and mixed them with tallow for use on sores. The Iroquois Indians made a compound infusion of plants applied as poultice to swellings of all kinds, and for broken bones. They also applied it to babies’ swollen stomach or sore back. The Mahuna Indians used the plant for painful congestions of the stomach. The Navajo, Ramah Indians made a cold infusion of plants taken and used as a lotion for injuries or swellings. The plant is also an excellent laxative for young children.”
“Other Uses: Cream, yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the plant and the seed heads. The root has been used as a toothbrush.”
(The roots can be untwisted and dried to make a brush.)
*Sap from the leaves, called ~mucilage~ can treat bites and stings.
*Mallow makes a weavable fiber…useful fiber
“The flowers were used formerly on May Day by country people for strewing before their doors and weaving into garlands. Musk mallow, was also used to decorate the graves of friends.”
According to this Source: http://www.squidoo.com/malva
I have a treasured reference. A book I refer to often and have with me whenever I need to look at something or gain more information about a plant or how or when to forage, etc. This is it.
Edible Wild Plants. North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods. by Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, Sterling Publishing 1982.
Here are guidelines and information from this reference. P. 146
FOOD USES AND PREPARATION:
Eat malva fruits raw
*Boiled root water can be a vegan
Substitute for meringue!
Strain roots also
Boil until thick
Beat and drop spoonfuls on waxed paper and cool to make a candy. Roll in confectioner’s sugar
Fry boiled rootslices in butter
And ch. onion until browned
The whole plant contains mucilagelike material
Leaves can be eaten like spinach raw or cooked
Use in soups as a thickener
Flowers and fruit and seeds are edible
Along with stems, leaves and roots
Flower buds are good pickled and most likely fruit too.
I hope that you enjoy foraging for Malva neglecta! Common mallow is a commmon wonderful edible and/or medicinal weed! Enjoy!
Wild Prickly Lettuce
An annual plant
or biennial plant
-It can grow to over 6 feet in height
-found in fields, disturbed sites such as roadsides,
-Originally a plant from Europe. Originating first
Wild prickly lettuce going to seed.
***Use a good field guide to identify plants. Forage with someone who knows.***
I often refer to:
Edible Wild Plants. By Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman. Sterlingpublishing.com
*Plus I research numerable other sources…please do the same.*
Well, our semi-trailer truck broke down. A great spill of oil from our engine. A deplorable event for the immediate environment and for our day. Wouldn’t you know it? We broke down to the closest town. Bliss, Idaho.
Once we sussed out what was going on. Put the emergency triangles out. Made calls to emergency repair trucks (who ended up ripping us off for $300,) got the pets comfortable, made calls, sipped on water in the difficult heat with no AC…made lunch to fuel our reservoir of energy for dealing and enduring what became a 9 hour or longer wait by the side of the road, made more calls, waited twice for tow trucks that didn’t come, had our hopes dashed when one of the tow trucks forgot to bring required equipment. Tried to navigate our options. Finally in the late evening we got towed to the Freightliner 50 or so miles away. Cha-ching what a day.
Amidst all this chaos and lapses in the heat. I couldn’t help but admire the wild prickly lettuce greeting me assuredly from the side of the road. The name of my blog is wildlettucegal…I knew eventually, sooner than later, I would have amassed that lovely combo of timing, information, inspiration to write and the opportunities to inspect and photograph the lettuce.
I even wrote a blog about the road breakdown but, I deleted it. It lacked the oomph. I needed to tap into the tipping point of inspiration. And, today, two days later…I have found it.
As a child I was happily feverish about reading Greek and Roman mythology. I would spend hours, especially, reading about Odysseus or Ulysses. Other myths fascinated me. Medusa fascinated/terrified me. Images of her snake filled crown devastated my ability to sleep at night. The age of nine is when I distinctly remember flipping through a book on Greek mythology…only to be transfixed by her graphic image. Beheaded no less.
Needless to say I could have benefitted from wild lettuce’s soporific, dream inducing qualities. Being nine was a bad year for insomnia. That’s when I saw clips from the exorcist. Cinema’s graphic and gorey cinematic mythology. I did not sleep much at the age of nine.
I now have a tattoo of Medusa on my arm. When I started painting 15 years ago…Medusa was my first series of paintings. Somewhere during that series I remembered an image of myself at the age of nine flipping through a Greek mythology book and spotting the image of Medusa for the first time. I’m glad I took the art route around that one.
So, as you may now understand, in my quirky sense of jubilance…and even current interest in mythology old and new, I was thrilled to learn the mythology connected to wild prickly lettuce.
According to Wikipedia:
The lovely, passionate and triumphant goddess Aphrodite had put to final rest the lovely mortal Adonis who was slain by a boar.
She was transfixed by this beautiful mortal and grieved of his loss.
Aphrodite laid Adonis to rest on a bed of wild lettuce.
Sappho is also known to write and account this myth.
(Wild lettuce has a connection to the world of the dead and I wonder if it is its soporific qualities which provides this kind of mythological link. The dreamworld perhaps being a portal to the world of the dead. Or perhaps a closer realm?)
The Egyptian god Min is also associated with wild prickly lettuce.
The ancient greeks believed the juice of the plant was good for eye ulcers.
The Navajo use it as a ceremonial emetic.
It has a reputation as being calming and sleep inducing for insomniacs. It is even said to have mild opiate qualities.
Even today wild prickly lettuce is eaten in Crete. A variety of Maroula or agrimaroulo is eaten boiled. Culinary traditions remain to this day.
I’ve never tried it for anything other than an edible wild food but wouldn’t mind its calming effect either.
Similar to purslane which contains lithium. I like when food helps me feel better. But, I’m not recommending an overuse of the plant.
The plant seems to have a built in mechanism for overuse. Eating too many leaves causes stomach upset. And the seeds contain some tannins.
*For those of you interested in the healing aspects and indications of wild lettuce…here is a helpful site.
*Also, here is a comprehensive page about Wild Lettuce which also distinguishes it from
Wikipedia describes Lactuca virosa as well:
Here is a picture of Lactuca virosa
This image is from the following source:
© Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary’s College. Permission to use is granted freely to not-for-profit organizations and for a per-image fee for commercial use. Contact Prof. R. P. Olowin at St. Mary’s College firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
And it is used medicinally and/or as a mild psychotropic but is not my focus here and has a wide range of historical use, but, not necessarily as wild edible. There are also a lot of side effects to its use. But, I wanted to include it here so as to distinguish it from the wild edible Lactuca serriola
Back to and in regard to Lactuca serriola
*I like the harvesting ethics outlined by Merriweather
NUTRITION AND HARVESTING TIPS:
*Lactuca serriola a.k.a. wild prickly lettuce is an annual or biennial plant so leave some plants to reproduce by seed.
*according to Elias and Dykeman: Leaf shapes can vary and can be multilobed/with points and/or oval oblong. Leaves are toothed and spiny along margin and main vein under leaf and the lower leaf surface.Proper identification is crucial.*
*I’ve read that older leaves are slightly toxic
*According to Merriweather,when the wild prickly lettuce plant flowers it is said to be inedible.
*Harvest young leaves they are the most tender
*Best to harvest from plants under 8 inches.
*older/larger leaves can be eaten when boiled
*Edible during spring and summer before the plant flowers or is in seed
*the spines on back of middle vein of leaf are usually soft enough to be eaten when the leaves are small.
*the spines on leaves do not tear clothing or injure
skin. But gloves may be useful re: sap, etc.
*leaves can be boiled as a pot green.
Herbalextractsplus.com sites these NUTRITIONAL qualities also:
When dried, the leaves produce a milky latex substance called lactucarium, which is used in herbal medicine. Some of the constituents in Wild Lettuce include the important milky latex substance (lactucarium), sesquiterpene lactones ( lactucopicrin), caoutchouc, mannitol, lactucin, fiber, coumarins and valuable minerals and vitamins.
Beneficial Uses: Wild Lettuce is considered a mild sedative herb.
Contains vitamin A, B and minerals
*I agree with Merriweather and only harvest one or two leaves per plant. I also consider how many plants are in the area I am harvesting from. Also look at the plant and harvest in such a way as not to kill the plant if you can.
It is known as the compass plant because in the sun the upper leaves twist round to hold their margins upright. 
Here are some new flowers emerging. I was happy to find these.
And here is a picture of wild prickly lettuce when it is a bit larger
And flowers sprouted out on long stems from the top
And a closeup view of flower buds
The leaves have a bit of a firm texture. Even the new leaves. The prickles on main vein of back of leaf are edible when new leaves are raw.
I thought the leaves would be good in a salad.
I tasted them raw and un-garnished and they do have a bitter aftertaste. But, I enjoyed them.
I also harvest 1 or 2 leaves per plant to avoid over-harvesting. I grasp the leaf and carefully strip it from the stalk. Another forager taught me this tip. You can see the ends on the leaves above were harvested this way rather than being sheered off.
Milky sap after pinching the top leaves off… were bitter when eaten raw…
You may want to wear gloves because the sap was milky. This may cause irritation to skin and it was sticky.
More on Mythology and Cultural Accounts of use of Wild Prickly Lettuce that inspired me to write this blog are these entries:
I found this on Mesocosm.net
a Sumerian poem about lettuce
Lettuce is My Hair
My hair is lettuce, [planted] by the water,
It is gukkal-lettuce, [planted] by the water….
My attendant arranges it,
The attendant arranges my hair which is lettuce, the most-favored of plants.
The brother brought me into his life-giving gaze,
Shu-Sin has called me to (his) refreshing …. without [end].
You are our lord, you are our lord,
Silver (and) lapis lazuli – you are our lord,
Farmer who makes the grain stand high, – you are our lord,
For him who is the honey of my eye, who is the lettuce of my heart,
May the days of life come forth…..
It is a balbale of Inanna.
Translated by S. N. Kramer, from the indispensable volume
Pritchard JB (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton University Press. 1969.
***And, finally I found this wonderful site on plants in mythology and have excerpted their info on Prickly Lettuce here:
Greek : Thridax
Species : Lactuca serriola
Description : The ancient Greeks cultivated the wild prickly lettuce. The plant has tall stalks with elongated leaves, yellow flowers and feathery seeds. The ball-shaped lettuce of today is a derivitive species (Lactuca sativa).
Sacred to : Aphrodite (the plant was associated with impotency)
Mythology : Death of Adonis. Adonis was a handsome youth loved by the goddess Aphrodite. He was slain by a wild boar in a bed of lettuce, or was laid out amongst the plants by the goddess following his death. The lettuce was therefore regarded as the plant of the death of love, and so of impotency. Others say that the baby Adonis was hidden in a lettuce bed by the goddess following his birth from the trunk of the tree Myrrha. (Source: Athenaeus)
Roll down the road. Negotiate space, cook on a 1 burner coleman stove. Dodge surefooted frisky companions. Keep a relationship going amidst huge hurdles of tiredness, fatigue, long days…beautiful scenery, yummy homemade meals, occasional music sessions inside the truck, my blog, lots of good books, some read outloud, sirius music and cd’s from friends, hectic schedules and close calls with haphazard drivers. How do we maintain space when the charm and cozy nuance can no longer satiate an eventual need for a “room of one’s own?”
The answer: the truckstop shower.
Follow me and I’ll take you on a virtual tour of the one thing that can sometimes save not only your social sense of self but, that integral holy thing. Privacy and a room of one’s own.
And the fork says it all. Little enjoyments and essentials restore equilibrium and establish privacy in space.
We fueled up…a grotesque ordeal considering the oil industry…but, nonetheless 50 gallons of fuel earns you a shower with co-driver shower.
We’re in like flynn. Park the truck. Make sure the animals are comfortable and that the weather is not too forbidding to leave them…or we set the temperature…lock the truck and go in with a few basics to shower.
The key being…we could share a shower but all the sharing we already do…why not get a small 10 by 10 foot room. I haven’t actually measured it but that feels equivalent. Perhaps less tall. Definitely less tall.
But, nonetheless we are on our way.
We’ve been talking a lot about Virginia Woolf lately. The time traveling and gender bending Orlando.
Like before and after experiences. Where you feel completely transformed.
Yes, I was relishing the experience of this small sequestration. Perhaps a half hour at the most. As Virginia so rightly knew and could explain. A room of her own.
Here is the ticket. That magic set of numbers. The time and space lottery set of numbers. The open sesame if you will of your own individual portal of space.
Here are the accomodations. Towels provided. A dispenser of soap that I have relinquished other more costly and cumbersome products…more or less.I am of this tribe. This wandering collective. Adept to circumstance and not about to shrug the total experience.
But, first the magic wand part. The keypad. Which often you have to press the prescribed numbers twice. Then the red light indicates go when it turns to green and you venture inside.
This is your doorway through. A private universe of your own experience. Defoliating the roughness of time’s churn against your body. A way in and through.
Any transformation is filled with potential pitfalls and hazards but signs do not necessarily have to be adhered to as precursors of fate. I venture in.
Roadweary and dazed. But, not unhappy. Just temporarily consumed.
I always lock the door. Who knows what confused soul may linger into the portal of my room alone. Sketch factors remain. I’m locking that possibility out.
Coffee comes with. Clean underthings or new set of clothes. I look around at my prospects and resemble as much as I may ever do…a deer in shower stall lights
I need to shed some hyper alertness and defoliate as I said the unwanted confines of the day’s wear and tear. Even amidst foraging bliss. Even the wildflowers need a good rain.
I’m ready for mine.
This is where my feet get to land. For a brief stay in this room of mine. I’ve never been kicked out for staying too long. But, it’s tempting to negotiate this space through some magical realm and stay longer than ordinary circumstances would normally permit.
But, I have secured the premises from the inside. And, here my feet have landed and I can stay.
The alchemical sweetness of being part of earth. The wonderful access to water. A sweet enabler of clear transformation. A joyous exalt into watery realms.
Looks plain and simple. Yet relief is inherent in this simulated rainfall. I can claim this transformation herein. Perhaps on entry I was anticipating the result of entering a whole new world.
But, overall something deeper and more calm can often satiate.
I can embrace the twilight of a crepuscular event coming in the new dawn.
I can begin again.
Full version cited here of Virginia Woolf’s:
“A Room of One’s Own.”
Excerpts from “A Room of One’s Own.”
By Virginia Woolf
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. ” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own.
I knew I would be writing about Purslane soon. Plants and herbs have a way of calling me to them.
I had been researching purslane along with yellow dock, wild lettuce and so on. But, I knew purslane had its day with me. Living on the semi-trailer truck…it was the first plant I saw in the morning and when I arrived in the evening…there it was waiting for me when I got there. To bid me a sweet night.
Purslane has many ties all over the world.
Its Persian name is Khorfeh. Its North Indian name is Luni-bhaji. Ghandi is said to have eaten it and he called it Luni. It is said that Purslane originated in India, although it is a global plant now. In Hebrew it is known as Regelah which means foot…because purslane grows underfoot and close to the ground.
(Above information: See economictimes.indiatimes website below)
I had fun finding words for purslane in languages other than English. And, if anyone else knows some I’ll add them here!
هيبرعلا Arabic word for Purslane
This is Purslane in Chinese.
Mǎ chǐ xiàn
Baqli in Turkish
Armenian is koi’korak, later dandur’
mboga ya pwani in Swahili
purslane in Russian
In Spanish it is known as Verdilacas or Yerba Orate meaning crazy plant because for how it grows out in all directions.
About the name in English:
Purslane probably has as many names as languages and if this is an exaggeration then consider that Purslane grows on every continent except antarctica. It is an annual which produces a prolific amount of seeds per plant, 240,000 seeds per plant!
Portulaca oleracea is its scientific name.
It belongs to the family of Portulacaceae.
In English alone, it goes by: purslane, pussly, pigweed, pusley, hogweed or duckweed and perhaps others I have not heard as yet. Perhaps affectionate nicknames exist although purslane has also been deemed an annoyance by some.
Purslane was considered a common food in the U.S. until a few generations or so ago. It appears to be making a comeback as it grows almost anywhere and foraging is making a comeback! It is not just being tossed out of people’s gardens, yards, walkways and peripheries as a nuisance but added to the menu as the fresh food for the day!
When eating a purslane salad on a rainy day. Playing scrabble at the kitchen table. The word purslane brings in a score of 10. And if you are a deft player and salad maker purslane brings its rewards!
What Conditions does it Grow in Best?
With 240,000 seeds it can be prolific and hearty.
Purslane does well in drought conditions. It likes sunny weather and does not do as well in shade or areas that are too damp.
It’s even been observed that if you pick purslane early in the morning it tastes more lemony and sour that way.
The leaves, stems, blooms and seeds are all edible.
How to Recognize Purslane:
From Green Deane:
“IDENTIFICATION: Smooth, reddish, mostly low-growing stems, alternate spatula leaves clustered at stem joints and ends, yellow flowers, capsule seed pods. Very fleshy. NOT HAIRY. CLEAR SAP. Those are important, not hairy, and clear sap.”
A lot of people say, and I agree that purslane looks like a tiny jade plant.
It has succulent leaves that are fleshy and rounded and which are tear shaped on the ends.
Purslane in flower:
O’kay, for the next 3 pictures, I had to add them to this post!
So, I wouldn’t forage from this trucking shipment lot…
But, I can’t help but admire how purslane will grow right out of the cracks of the concrete!
There it is. Against all odds. It really cheers me up to see the tenacity of this wonderful plant! Maybe purslane will give you encouragement too.
It does for me and it makes me smile.
Purslane, You inspire!
And it’s flowering too!
More Description of Purslane:
The leaves are medium green. Sometimes medium light green as above with purslane in flower.
It has a matte grey green color underneath often glistening with moisture sparkles
Its stems are succulent too and range in color from red to pink to green. Most of my photos are of the red stemmed kind. But, also smaller stems in other foraged areas showed green and/or green with pink tinge along with red stems.
It grows out of one taproot and then into a rosette shape in all directions.
*see photos above*
*Spurge stems are thinner
Spurge leaves are thinner
***a trick is to break the stem. If a white milky sap comes out then that is Spurge. And Spurge is Poisonous!
*** so no milky sap means, at least, it’s not Spurge.
***It should be smooth and not hairy on stems or leaves
Always be careful when wild harvesting and go with someone who knows…and/or field guide it, etc.
Here is a helpful site and it lists different types of Purslane.
I recommend in this blog, foraging the common purslane that blooms a small yellow, 5 petalled flower.
Check out this helpful site!
What does Purslane taste like? What do I do with it?
Purslane can be eaten raw, used in soups or stirfried.
It tastes lemony and a bit like cucumber or green beans. I find it quite pleasant tasting. Or it tastes like a hearty Wood Sorrel. I find that like wood sorrel it leaves a pleasant taste in your mouth and feels thirst quenching. See my post about Yellow wood sorrel too!
Purslane tastes great in a salad and can be prepared like any vegetable for stirfrying. The succulent nature can make it nice for soups. I would try looking up nopales recipes and combining the two. Purslane is smaller so would take less cooking time and nopales take special preparations. See my Homepage re: harvesting and preparing nopales. Or buy prepared nopales from your market or Mexican market if available.
Also, a nice idea I have read is to rinse your purslane in a bowl.
The seeds which are numerous per plant can be let out in a sunny dry area outside or a window box area. Water a day or two later and every day or so…not overly wet. Look for sprouts. Once it grows water every day.
When it is big enough you can start harvesting or just eat the sprouts and enjoy!
Try sauteeing it with onions, some mint and garlic!
Also, I found this great Khorfeh Salad…
Salade Khorfeh with turmeric and saffron! I am inspired check it out!
First of all, Purslane has the Most Omega-3 fatty acids of any plant! And, more Omega-3 than many fish!
It is low in fat and calories.
It is a rich source of vitamin C.
It has prevented scurvy in many parts of the world.
It has many of the B vitamins including: Riboflavin, Niacin, Piridoxine and carotenoids.
It’s an excellent source of vitamin A
Very high in vitamin E
Contains Folate and
It is 2.5% Protein
Additional Dietary Minerals include:
Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, and Maganese!
Also, Purslane contains 2 types of betalains.
http://hickeryhollerfarm.blogspot.com/2012/01/accidental-strokes-of-genius.html?m=1 (feed your chickens purslane for nutritious eggs…!)
Betalains are anti-inflammatory and benefit conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. (Nopales cactus fruit are extremely high in betalains. See my Homepage on preparations.)
Also, wild harvesting purslane is a good idea for nutritional benefits. It’s easy to prepare. And, you can find purslane many places! Purslane grows abundantly in sunny, dry soil. And, it is easy to prepare like a salad. Purslane grows abundantly all over the world!
A word of caution: if you are prone to kidney stones or other problems with oxalate foods please see a health professional in regard to consuming foods with oxalates. Purslane contains oxalates as do many vegetables, seeds, grains and fruit. Not all but many do contain oxalates.
I am not an expert. Merely a happy enthusiast glad to share what I have learned and discovered!
And Purslane could very well be the missing link in a lot of people’s diets today. Wild Harvest or Grow your own. Wild Harvest in areas free of pollutants.
And enjoy your Purslane…by whatever name you call it. It is a global food.
Here is a poem and art piece inspired by the Persian word for Purslane: Khorfeh!
This is Burdock!
*Caution!* Sometimes the word dock is used as a nickname for Yellow dock/Curly dock as well as Burdock!
Here is my post on Curly Dock a.k.a. Yellow Dock Each plant has very different effects when used!
*I am not an expert. I am an enthusiast. Please seek expert advice and identification for all foraged plants!*
Now back to my discovery of Burdock…with some help from a friend! Phew (wipes sweat from brow!)
Identifying wild plants is serious business. For example, I initially mistook this plant for rhubarb. WRONG! BURDOCK it is. Young burdock can be confused with FOXGLOVE which is deadly poisonous… so take an expert with you and a field guide too!
****Here is a helpful page to distinguish between new growth of burdock and foxglove. Check it out!
Burdock: sometimes it is mistaken for rhubarb. I know that well. I had forgotten what I knew as a child. What I had learned in the New England woods…that rhubarb likes damp soil. Soil prone to swampiness like its plant neighbor skunk cabbage. Known for its strong skunky odor. I find skunk cabbage fascinating.
And when its roots are broken it emits the skunky odor.
But, on this day with visions of strawberry rhubarb in my head…I found BURDOCK!
I made a newbie mistake. I found what I thought I was looking for…meaning you want to see what you are looking for…but stumbled upon an even more complex and exciting plant for me. BURDOCK.
Embarrassingly…I posted a picture of burdock as rhubarb. I dressed burdock up as rhubarb and I am grateful my friend Ed noticed. Being my facebook friend, and my friend for 30 years where we met as young adults…it is fun to know we both share an active interest in wild edibles and wildflowers.
He wrote me back and said the plant looked a lot like burdock or dock as he called it. So, I want to thank my friend for showing me the way to burdock…through a strawberry rhubarb colored door…I took a carnival door…filled with tricks in mirrors…on my discovery to the world of Edible and Medicinal BURDOCK.
Here is a picture of my friend as a child
And, what I am gathering on this journey is that allies appear in life and I thank Ed for being that role for me. And, I could see that burdock wanted me to move past sweetened stalks of rhubarb in pies and rhubarb’s poisonous leaves…to the healing edible nutrition of burdock’s roots.
So, I delved deeper. Learning that burdock creates burrs after the flowers bloom…I remembered.
I remembered being a four year old girl and visiting a childhood friend of my mother. This felt like a special event for the two women and I remember playing outside in the meadow like area in the back of the house.
I felt this irresistable urge to go deeper and deeper in. Being only four at the time the weeds and wildflowers came up to my chest or higher.
Inexplicably, I kept forging a path ahead. I even remember what I was wearing that day. A shell pink cableknit sweater and slacks. Usually I had a strong aversion to pink but, for some reason I really favored this sweater.
As my mom retreated into a world of reminiscences and fond reconnection with her childhood friend…I felt the tethers of my own hesitation unraveling.
There I was, deep into the middle of the weeds and it seemed stunningly and shockingly, that in an instant, unrecognizably, I was covered by sticky velcro like brown orbs. Where my favorite outfit had been…my tenacious exploration had put me into the grasp of a completely altered physical appearance. I had never experienced such a startling shift.
I was covered head to toe in sticky burrs.
It was then my tether to my mother twisted and braided itself back to my mother and I just hollered for her. And, finally what seemed an infinity she came to see what my dilemma was. And, she seemed to agree with me that I was indeed changed in appearance. I never could get all those burrs out of that sweater.
The only photo I have of myself at that age is a family snapshot of my 2 brothers and sister and me.
So, seeing Ed’s picture of himself as a child reminded me that I had already met burdock. It stands out as a unique and startling experience at how rapid transformation can be!
A lot of research about Burdock has ensued and please get “second opinions” but, what I’ve read is that the root has culinary and herbal healing value.
Its scientific name is: Arctium Minus
It is in the Daisy Family! Or Asteraceae Family!
In order to harvest…look for first year foliage. Seek expert advice here. Do not confuse FOXGLOVE with BURDOCK.
Harvest Burdock when it has formed a base of leaves but still close to the ground. If the stalks have formed long…then it is an older plant.
The root is deemed the most nutritious when in the fall of its first year the energy of the plant turns back down into the roots. The roots are dark brown on the outside and white on the inside. And taste akin to carrots or parsnips. Second year plant roots are woody and less nutrient rich since the burdock plant is biennial and flowers in its second year. The root is used as energy for the plant and thereby less tasty and nutritious.
I’ve tried burdock only once and sauteed it. It stays crunchy is what I remember. Now I have a better idea how to harvest it.
A popular Japanese dish called Kinpira Gobo would be a great way to try burdock. Sauteed burdock with carrots and daikon… many recipes online!
******Here is a helpful site:*******
What I’ve also read is that burdock is a blood purifier and removes toxins from your blood…and being diuretic in nature…you pee out the toxins.
Hey, but remember I’m an enthusiast not an expert and just like to hand out tidbits I’ve learned!
Thankyou for traveling with me on the carnivalesque way that burdock has greeted me throughout my life with the help of a friend and wild edible and wildflower enthusiast like myself. Plus Ed’s a kickass gardener. Inspiration!