Have you ever had a hunk of good sourdough bread with a slab of cheese, some real saurkraut, pickles and washed it all down with some homemade beer? These are just a few of the foods which have historically been fermented. These days, just about the only food Americans typically eat live bacteria in is yogurt. A sad testament to our industrialized food system, which prizes antibacterialism. Good bacteria are not only good for us, but necessary for life on earth.
Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation bubbles over with delicious history and recipes for wild fermentation. Wild fermentation is the process of encouraging wild bacteria, yeasts and fungi, already present on our foods, to transform our foods into something more digestible and nutritious for our bodies. Let alone the fact that cultures around the world have used fermentation for thousands of years to perserve food, without the use of refrigeration. The jist of fermentation is that it predigests the food, making many minerals and some vitamins more bioavailable. It also decreases many of the natural toxins found in food and is therapeutic to both our immune systems and digestive tracts. This subject is a bit hard for most people to wrap their heads around. Click here to listen to an interview with Sandor, which will give you an idea of what this dwindling food preservation technique is all about.
I have been experimenting with fermentation for a short while. One of my favorites is fermenting wild grape leaves to roll my own dolmas/stuffed grape leaves. With an abundance of curly dock (Rumex crispus) leaves popping up in my yard this year, I thought they might make for an interesting leaf fermentation. I have not tasted this recipe yet, but this gives you a general idea and starting point to begin your own fermentation experiments.
Fermented Curly Dock Leaves
2 large handfuls of young curly dock leaves
1 T salt
1 clean quart-sized mason jar
Wash your curly dock leaves well. Take a clean quart-sized canning jar and place rolled leaves into jar. Add salt to roughly 3 cups of water and pour over curly dock leaves, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace in the jar. Push leaves down to the bottom of the jar, and if they float to the top you will need to weight them down. I have done so here in the photo using a seashell. All leaves need to be submerged below liquids, otherwise mold will form! Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days, then transfer to cold storage (refrigerator or root cellar).
Hi, looks like a very interesting recipe! Would you please post a follow-up when you sample it and let us know how it tastes? I’ve been doing a little fermenting myself and was trying to think of some wild plants I could experiment on…
I tried the fermented curly dock greens and am happy with them. They have a bitter aftertaste, unlike the wild grape leaves I have done before. They will make for some fun little wraps…I’ll probably roll them with some goat cheese to mellow out the bitter aftertaste.
I’ve looked all over for a receipe on how to preserve wine leaves so stumpling upon your interesting site was extra joyfull.
The preserved leaves you can buy in stores are rolled in tight packages of twenty or so leaves, how do you do with yours? And I can’t believe it to be this easy, just adding salt and water..? So no vinegar needed or anyting?
Thanks for the valuable site and work you’ve done!
Greetings from a autumn sunny Helsinki, Finland
thanks for the comments. No they don’t need vinegar at all. I stack about 12 leaves and then roll them up. I usually fit in 3 to 4 rolls in a quart jar. Have fun and let us know how it works if you wish.
Fermentation: Isn’t this also how you make sauerkraut? I think I’ve seen my daughter-in-law make it this way.
Yes, this is also how you can make your own sauerkraut. It’s fun and easy to do…and there are many other things that can be fermented than just cabbage. Experiment! Have fun! Eat good food!
Curly docks are edible? I have become curious about them because the slugs here seem to eat them before anything else. They also like the brown caps of dandelions which form after flowering, and just before seeding. I tried the caps today!(I know that dandelion flowers are edible, not going totally by what slugs think!)sort of naturally semi-fermented. The taste is difficult to describe. Very filling! But rather pulpy, they probably expand a lot, so if anyone wants to try them, take it easy until you know how they are. Does anyone know the name of the spent dandelion petals? And what benefit they have?
Yes, curly dock is edible! Enjoy playing around with all parts above ground…the root is just used medicinally or as a dye. I don’t know what the spent dandelion petals would be called, but I do know the petals are high in lecithin.
take care, ~sunny
Are the leaves of curly dock young enough at this time? I have tons growing on our property which is fairly secluded and I have not used any pesticides in over 20 years. do I have to wash them?
yes I would give them a quick rinse and use in stir fry’s or soups. Just start experimenting with them.
I like to make the curly dock like collard greens. I spice them, add melted butter, and put them into a collander. and then I take dried bayberry leaves, put the leaves in a frying pan and set them on fire, and set the collander on top to smoke the dock, and cover the whole thing with a cloth. The result is delicious and smoky. In Hungary, dock is mixed with cheese and baked into pies.
A neighbor mentioned that her mother used to ferment dandelion leaves, so this year I’m experimenting with them. I just picked a huge bunch and sorted and rinsed them, and will be preparing them the same way as with sauerkraut. Have you ever prepared fermented dandelion leaves? Now I’ll be looking for curly dock, too.
Thank you for sharing the recipe. I have not made cultured food until now. Can you give us some ideas about different ways to use these and other cultured wild greens? Thank you very much!
I have a 2.5 gallon crock of fermenting curly dock, and it had a few wisps of what I think is kahm’s yeast growing, I cleaned it off, and it smells bad, but didn’t taste too bad, starts sour, finishes bitter. Fresh Curly dock or sautéed with olive oil CD is better IMHO. Should have started small.