Amber Rose Ostaszewski
It’s the height of the summer and I’m already ready for harvest season. I’ve been reflecting a lot on abundance. It’s hard not to, being surrounded by lush summer greenery, even the cracks in the sidewalk are bursting with life. Look no further than the curly dock my husband and I gathered from a parking lot, on Father’s Day and Summer Solstice no less, which he carried home for me proudly like he had won a pageant.
Curly dock is similar to rhubarb in that it has oxalic acid in the stems and leaves, in addition to tannins, so it can be used as a mordant or fixative in natural dyeing. It also gives color; I got a variety of yellows, greens, and greys on wool yarn, but the seeds are known for pulling browns, and if you dig the roots up entirely, they are known for corals, oranges, and pinks.
The plant is related to buckwheat, so the seeds can be toasted and ground to create flour, however note that there isn’t any gluten in it, and so if baking with it, it will require a binder of some sort. Approximately 1 ½ cups of full dock seeds grinds down to approximately ½ cup of flour, so it’s great that dock is so abundant. We used the seeds we harvested to make some crackers which were delicious.
Medicinally it can be used for gastrointestinal problems, but it’s named as one of the most popular remedies for nettle stings. Simply taking a dock leaf and rubbing it on the nettle-infected area will soothe the sting. Of course other types of soothing leaves will work (like plantain especially!), I think that dock is the most infamous because it grows EVERYWHERE and can be easily identified.
I’m fascinated with the relationship between curly dock and nettle, and I plan to work on my next fiber art piece with my handspun nettle yarn and this dock-dyed wool yarn to play on the sting/remedy.