Broadleaf Dock Dolmas

Foraged and then stuffed, these wild dolmas are cheap and amazing

Dock is incredible! You’ve seen broadleaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius) or its many kissing cousins like yellow dock or curly dock, but you probably didn’t know what it was called. It’s all over the place in abandoned lots or along sidewalks or inside city parks, all waving around its leaves like a bunch of red-veined banners, sitting there contendedly being related to buckwheat and sorrel and whatnot.

THIS guy….

If you dig into foraging literature, you‘ll likely come across a few descriptions of broadleaf dock: pick the leaves while they’re really young, they’ll say. It’s too bitter to enjoy, they’ll say. Don’t eat too much because of all of the — GASP — Oxalic Acid, they’ll say. Well folks, I’m here to tell you: broadleaf dock is a delight, and it works really well as both a potherb, a soup green, and a wrapping for dolmas. YUM!

FIRST of all, let’s get this whole “Oxalic Acid” thing out of the way, because it comes up all the time when you start eating wild foods like dock or lamb’s quarters. Bad for your kidneys, they say. Avoid foods containing it, you’ll hear. Listen, should you be concerned about plants containing oxalic acid? Yes, you should! If you eat too much, you can damage your kidneys — this is why we don’t eat rhubarb leaves.

HOWEVER! On the scale of plants we put into our body, rhubarb leaves are probably your largest cause for oxalic acid concerns. If you’re a healthy person, poisoning yourself with oxalic acid by eating anything other than rhubarb leaves (or a jar of oxalic acid) requires eating a SERIOUS amount of the foods in question (like, pounds every day for a week). Eating dock, or lambsquarters, or oxalis, poses seriously little risk for the average person who might eat it once and a while. Don’t eat pounds at a sitting, and you should be fine.

THAT BEING SAID: If you already have kidney problems, or are prone to kidney stones, check with a medical professional before eating foods known to contain high levels of oxalic acids, including spinach, parsley, and chives, all of which contain more oxalic acid than dock.

For more on oxalic acid, check out the following site:

And listen, if you’re worried about it, don’t eat it, okay? It’s totally fine! Find something else to eat instead! Cool? Cool!

OH-kay. Now that’s out of the way. Let’s address the next issue regarding broadleaf dock, which is that after it’s been growing for a while, the leaves get SUPER BIG and thick and spotty. A lot of people look at those leaves and think, “ew, probably bitter, not worth using when they’re old and janky and scraggly” but your humble author is not such an age-ist, and thinks this is a lot of nutritious plant material growing everywhere — how can we make it tasty and useful?

Yes, when the leaves are young they’re pleasantly tangy and mucilaginous and great in stew and soup and mixed greens. But, they’re only young for a short season, and then turn into the leather-looking monsters you’ve seen in your local park or abandoned lot. So, what to do? Well, what do other people do with surplus leaves that get all tough and bitter tasting? Could do like banana leaves and steam food in them, but they’re kind of delicate once they’re cooked, and would stick to the fish. Why not incorporate them into the meal? Why not make them into dolmas?

Grape leaves are traditionally used for dolmas, and have a similar texture and flavor to dock. Grape leaves are also bitter, from tannins, and can be tough and chewy raw. BUT! When you make dolmas, you use BRINED grape leaves. A CLUE! Could a simple brine transform these tough but unbiquitous dock leaves into something delicious?

The answer, my friends, is YES INDEED.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Harvest 10–15 broadleaf dock leaves. You could also use curly dock, if you’re so inclined, though it’d be more difficult to stuff ‘em since curly dock leaves are… curly. Try to harvest older, tougher leaves for this, not the younger ones. A few spots are okay, but you’re stuffing them, so avoid big holes or tears. Clean them well, trying not to tear them. Don’t forget to forage sustainably.
See, like this!
  • Make some brine. I used 1/8 cup of sea salt in 2 cups of water. Your mileage may vary depending on how salty you want the final product. Heat up the water, dissolve the salt, let cool. Drop the leaves into the brine and stick ‘em in the fridge.
  • Brine them for at least 3 days. I waited four. I think you could go longer if you’re inclined, but swish ‘em around a few times if you do so they all get equally coated in the brine.
  • Make a stuffing. These are vegematarian, but you could definitely use some meat in there. I went with the ‘make the rice first’ method instead of cooking the rice right in the dolmas, since these leaves are more delicate than grape leaves. My stuffing was two cups of white rice, cooked in veggie broth, 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds,olive oil (2 tbsp), lemon juice (2 tbsp), garlic (2 cloves minced) and salt and pepper to taste.

You could use quinoa instead! And add some raisins and capers! THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

  • Drain and rinse your leaves.
  • Stuff ‘em. Remove the end stems and cut the larger ones in two. Place about a tablespoon and a half of your stuffing into each one, and roll them up like ‘ittle burritos (burritoitos?).

It’s difficult to avoid overstuffing them — err on the side of less filling per leaf.

Little packets of goodness…
  • Cook ‘em. Arrange in a sauté pan, packed fairly tightly. Add about 1 and 1/2 cups nice broth (veggie or chicken) and sprinkle with paprika. Simmer for 1/2 hour or until the leaves darken.
OOOOhhh!
  • Serve and eat. Holy moly these are SO GOOD!

You could make an argument for serving them with sour cream for dipping, or even tzatziki (hey, has anybody tried making osoberry or borage tzatziki yet?), but they’re perfectly delightful just on their own. The leaves are mildly sour with a hint of bitterness that adds to the complexity of the dish.

Broadleaf dock dolmas will astound you, and your friends, and I recommend making some as soon as possible!


When not studying Permaculture or drinking licorice fern and salal berry sodee-pop, Jeremy Puma writes some things and cooks some things. Jeremy will be teaching a class in urban foraging with the Seattle Farm School on May 30, 2015. Click here for more details.

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