Monday, January 20, 2020

Ukrainian green borscht with backyard curly dock weeds

So, as you can see, I'm not terribly good about updating my blog. 

That said, I have been out foraging, just not feeling like posting, trying new things, or communicating with the outside world. That happens with me.

So I did try something new this weekend: Ukrainian green borscht. Properly known as Shchavel borscht, it gets its name from Shchavel, the Ukrainian word for sorrel. 

Garden sorrel, Latin name: Rumex acetosa, is a garden vegetable grown mostly in Europe and the Mediterranean area--though it was popular in one time in America. Sorrel is a broad-leaf green rich with potassium, vitamin A and oxalic acid*. The latter gives it a sharp, sour flavor. 

Sorrel is popular, in part, because it's very easy to grow. The entire genus Rumex are known to grow in poor soil, both dry and we conditions, alkaline and acidic areas, and sun or shade. They are hardy plants that don't require much care. They are so hardy that one member, Rumex crispus--aka curly dock--has managed to naturalize itself throughout most of North America, having become a common weed. You almost certainly have some growing near you.

Curly dock in January in Texas is still very young and tender. These leaves are about 8 inches long,
at full growth they will be nearly double that. 

Generally a spring and summer plant, the mild climate of Texas means that curly dock can be found in the Dallas area from late fall through early spring, with December through March being peak.

Curly dock has many of the health benefits of garden sorrel, as well as being rich in iron. It's easy to identify in the wild, and was probably brought here originally as a food crop--but fell out of favor. 

I usually used curly dock as a substitute for spinach, but it actually makes a lot more sense to substitute it for sorrel, since they are very closely related, in the same genus. Spinach recipes are a lot easier to come by, but I was very excited to find a true sorrel recipe I could sub curly dock for. 

When very young, curly dock can lack the crinkled edges that make ID easy. If you are new to foraging you might want to remember the old saying: "When in doubt, throw it out!"