Identification: In the winter, curly dock is easy to identify because of its dark brown stalks and seed pods. It grows 1 to 4 feet tall with leaves 6-10 inches long growing from the base of the plant. During the summer the plant's flowers are small and reddish or greenish. They eventually turn into small, brown, three-sided winged seeds. During the summer the plant is camouflaged a bit more, but you can still easily identify its long thin leaves with curly edges. There are other type of dock as well, but this variety is called Rumex crispus.
Edible: Young leaves can be eaten raw, but older leaves will be bitter and must be boiled in several changes of water. The seeds can be dried, threshed and ground into flour. I use a Vitamix dry container to make flour out of the seeds. I would recommend mixing this homemade flour into a white or store-bought flour for best results.
Medicinal: Roots can be mashed into a poultice to use externally on rashes and itches.
Other Uses: The roots can be used as a hide-tanning additive.
Cautions: Do not eat the roots, as they are high in tannic acid.
Brown, Tom Jr. Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival. New York: Berkley Books, 1983. Print.
Angier, Bradford. Field Guide to Wild Edible Plants. Harrisburd, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1974. Print