These are some of our larger dock species, familiar as garden and agricultural weeds, yet useful as food and medicine.
A raised rosette of large leaves form and a tall (up to 1m) flower stalk with tiny, barely-there flowers emerges. This turns red-brown in autumn and is easily spotted from a distance. In Broad-leaved dock, the leaves and broad with a curved base where they meet the stalk. In curled dock, the leaves are narrower with a wavy edge and tapering base. They are both used in a similar way, and no dock in Ireland causes any problems if eaten.
The leaves of all docks are edible and can be consumed in moderation. Due to their oxalic acid content, it is not advisable to consume them more often than once a week. The young leaves are more tender and sweet, older leaves are tougher and need blanching first.
Recipe suggestion: Fry dock leaves with onion and garlic, serve with hard-boiled eggs.
Medicinal use: Both the leaves and roots of docks are rich in iron and bitter, which stimulates production of digestive enzymes and bile, ensure better absorption of minerals like iron. Simmering dock roots (10g dried / 30g fresh) in 250mlwater for 20-30 min produces a nutritious iron-rich but bitter drink. You can also eat the cooked roots. Be aware that roots that are yellow when cut (more particularly curled dock) contain anthraquinones which are laxative – useful in persistent constipation when diet and lifestyle changes have not succeeded. Unless you need this effect, it is better to use the white roots.