This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
Many of the so-called weeds add variety and taste to the diet and as ballast and mineral foods induce a higher degree of health. As these weeds are all great pests, it is needless to say that the more they are cut the less they propagate, so by their use not only is a food procured without price, save the labor of gathering, but at the same time a step forward in eradicating a pest is made.
The leaves of dock root are efficacious in the diet as greens and the tonic properties which the plant contains are of value in the great art of keeping well.
Milkweed is one of the most delicious greens and may be used from the last of May on through the season. The plant may be recognized as a single stalk with oval-pointed leaves. Usually it branches into two or three stalks at the top. It can always be identified by the white, milky juice found in the stems. Milkweed should be eaten either when young (about six inches tall) or when the branches come. In the latter case only the branches are used, as the stalk grows bitter with age. When the young stalks are gathered, they may be bunched and boiled as asparagus and served on toast with either a butter or cream sauce. In case the branches are used it is more satisfactory to prepare them as greens, washing thoroughly, then boiling gently in a small amount of salted water for thirty minutes; then they are drained, chopped and seasoned with pepper and butter. Occasionally the greens may be heated up in cream sauce or scalloped with entire wheat bread crumbs, cream sauce and a little hard-cooked egg. This is a delicious supper dish.
Purslane or "pusley" in old days was commonly used as a salad or pot herb, great medicinal virtue being ascribed to it. One ancient writer said, "Purslane doth mitigate the great in al the inward partes of the bodie, sembably of the head and eyes." While we cannot credit it with such specific powers, it is certain that along with the great group of greens it possesses purifying qualities beneficial to the body. Purslane appears about the middle of May, growing most prolifically in gardens, vegetable patches and corn fields. It is a prostrate, or trailing, plant, one root growing many stems, branching out and covering a circular surface. The stems are fleshy and red while the leaves are about the size of the thumbnail and almost round. As purslane has little flavor it tastes rather flat when cooked as greens, unless accompanied by a piece of ham, bacon or salt pork. As it is very succulent it makes a good salad, if it is dressed raw with oil, vinegar and a high seasoning of salt and pepper. It may be combined with sliced radishes or shredded green peppers to good advantage, or strewn with minced mint, when roast lamb or cold ham is to be served. It is also frequently used as a garnish.
Narrow dock, "curled dock," or "sour dock," for it is known by various names, is a particularly persistent and plentiful weed, ready to use from June throughout the season. It may be recognized easily. The stem is erect, angular and furrowed, growing from eighteen inches to two and a half feet tall and branching from the bottom up. The leaves are lanced-shaped and pointed, with the margins strongly shirred. The flowers are drooping green, inconspicuous clusters growing in circles about the stem. The leaves only are used, and are always cooked as greens and seasoned with salt and pepper. As the name "sour dock" suggests, the flavor is distinctly sour and for this reason it should be served with a suitable meat, as beef tongue, ham or corned beef, with which the flavor will harmonize. Occasionally the chopped cooked greens are moulded in cups in individual portions, and served on lettuce as a salad, accompanied by boiled dressing to which has been added a generous quantity of chopped, cooked ham. In this case it is sufficiently substantial to serve as a main dish at luncheon or supper.