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Foraged Wild Rhubarb
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Wild Rhubarb is identifiable by its narrow lance-shaped leaves with wavy or “curled” margins. The leaves should be foraged in early spring just as they begin to unfurl from their papery sheath. This is when they are most tender and offer a lemony sorrel-like flavor with minimal bitterness. Foragers should be cautious that these young leaves are properly washed because the chrysophanic acid they contain can irritate the mouth. The flower stalks of Wild Rhubarb are also edible and can grow upwards of a meter. They turn a distinct rust color in late summer and have a more pronounced tart bitterness than their conventional cousin. Late in summer the brownish-red clusters of seeds at the top of the stalks ripen. Though the seeds are edible, they are mostly husk and chaff, making their preparation tedious.
Wild Rhubarb can be found year-round. For foraging purposes, the leaves are best in the spring and the seeds ripen in the fall.
Wild Rhubarb is a biennial broadleaf plant in the Buckwheat family. Botanically known as Rumex crispus, but other common names include Curly Dock, Yellow Dock, Sour Dock and Coffee Weed. Though Wild rhubarb is entirely edible, due to its high levels of calcium oxalate, a chemical linked to kidney stones, people prone to developing them should limit their consumption.
The leaves of Wild Rhubarb contain Vitamins A and C, protein and minerals. Its roots are rich in iron and also increase the body’s bile levels which detoxify the blood and liver. The seeds provide high levels of insoluble fiber, excellent for cleaning the intestinal walls. Wild Rhubarb is a gentle laxative and may also be used to treat skin conditions such as eczema.
Wild Rhubarb leaves may be eaten raw when young, but are best sautéed or stewed. Their sour lemony flavor compliment hearty soups and egg dishes. The stalks may also be added into recipes with the leaves, but should be peeled and cut into a small dice. Preparing the seeds of Wild Rhubarb can be painstaking due to their tough husks and copious amounts of chaff. They may be ground into a meal and added to flour in baking applications, similar to buckwheat flour. They may also be ground and brewed as a coffee substitute. Though the root of Wild Rhubarb is edible, it is far too bitter and tough to eat and is more often used for herbal medicine and dyes.
Wild Rhubarb grows in disturbed sights along meadows, roadsides, and marshlands. It is a very sturdy plant and grows in most temperate climates. Wild Rhubarb is native to Europe and today can be found in all fifty states.
Recipes that include Foraged Wild Rhubarb. One is easiest, three is harder.