Dock – The Lunchbreak forager

Docks are in the same family as buckwheat and sorrel. Docks are most famed for their

dock leaves
Dock edible with some preparation

use in folk medicine to help when stung by nettle. Personally I find that a plantain (plantago) leaf is far more beneficial than a dock due to its anti-histamine properties.

If you live in a temperate climate you won’t ever be too far away from dock leaves as they populate almost everywhere. Neglected areas of parks, wasteground and graveyards (avoid near to Victorian graves due to high levels of lead), are all places to search.

Dock leaves need careful preparation in order to make them edible. They need to be flash boiled in two changes of water (see below for preparation). Dock contains oxalic acid which is where that sharp lemon like flavour comes from and this is reduced when cooked. However, people with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take care if considering including this plant in their lunch box as it can aggravate their condition. Pregnancy and breast-feeding women should give it a miss too (sorry, I know its boring try to make up for it by getting those around you to pass you random things for your own amusement).

The dock leaves can then be used filled with a spiced rice mixture rolled up and served as

Andy Hamilton in a hat
Andy Hamilton man about the forest

stuffed vine leaves. Here is a brief recipe of mine originally on the BBC food website, but it was in need of a few tweaks so I’ve pasted below a tweaked version. The first flush of growth on any dock plant can also be eaten raw, hunt around in the spring (again avoid if you have an underlying health condition).

Stuffed Dock leaf

Dock leaves are available at almost any time of year. Their strong texture makes them ideal for stuffing and making a wild food version of stuffed vine leaves.


      16 dock leaves, washed well
      4 tbsp walnut oil
      500g/1lb 2oz lamb mince
      1 onion, finely chopped
      1 lemon, juice only
      100g/3½oz bulgur wheat
      1 large tomato
      1 tsp mixed spices
      400ml/14fl oz cold water
      1 tbsp tomato purée

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Boil the dock leaves in water for a couple of minutes and repeat. Drain and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  3. Meanwhile, mix two tablespoons of the walnut oil with the lamb mince, onion, lemon juice, bulgur wheat, tomato and mixed spice until well combined. Add a little of the water to loosen the mixture if necessary.
  4. Roll sixteen equal-sized balls from the mixture and wrap one in each boiled dock leaf. Place the stuffed dock leaves into a large cast-iron casserole (or saucepan).
  5. Mix the remaining two tablespoons of oil with the tomato purée and water and pour the mixture into the casserole.
  6. Put the casserole onto the hob over a medium heat and gently bring to the liquid to the boil. Remove the casserole from the heat and transfer to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly before serving.

Deceptively delicious dock tortilla (or The Wild Tortilla)

It is easy to dismiss dock and even curse it. There doesn’t seem to be a patch on earth that does give a home to dock. As a gardener I curse it, letting its long root down into my veg patch. Persisting and giving no other use than its dubious fame to neutralize a nettle sting. It does however, add a taste and texture to dishes when there are next to no other leaves around and high in iron it can be a nutritious addition too.


100g dock (curled or large leafed) prepared as below

1 x Wood aven root
3 eggs
2 generous dollops of double cream (4 tablespoons)
1 sweet potato
1 tsp nettle seeds
Oil for frying
1 small leek


Bring a pan of water to the boil and throw in dock leaves. Boil for 3 mins then rinse leaves. Nibble on a leaf and if still very bitter repeat the process. Rinse leaves in cold water then chop.

Beat eggs with cream and put to one side

Meanwhile heat oil in a 25cm pan over a medium heat and grate in cleaned wood aven root and sprinkle in nettle seeds. Chop the sweet potato into 1cm rounds and fry in batches until crispy brown  blisters appear. In the last batch also fry leak until softened.

Stir the dock in with the egg mixture and pour half into the pan. Add the extra layer of sweet potato and more nettle seed if to hand and pour in the rest of the mixture.

Cook on a medium heat until a bit wobbly, constancy of vodka jelly, then finish off under the grill.

For a lighter version swap the dock for 150g of chickweed.