a tale of tails, tenacity, and tedium, as told by me, usually barefoot and bellowing

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poke Salad, A Spring Tonic

 The first greens of the season, picked wild, were always considered to be a spring tonic by my family.  Gets the old stuff moving out and makes room for all the fresh spring foods.  Why??  Because this plant is poison!!

Above is the mature plants and a good healthy plant can grow as tall as fourteen feet.  When it is this mature, nothing is edible, not the berries, not the stalk nor the leaves and especially not the root!!!
This is the stage when it is best picked for food.
Although the birds do eat the berries and thus,
spread the growth of Poke,
 it not recommended for humans.
It's poison!!!
So why and how do we eat a plant that is so poison???  The why is because it is so darn good, simple as that.

The how is also simple, wash it, boil it and change the water three times, is the old rule.  The younger it is, the fewer water changes required.  You may pick dock, dandelion, spring lettuce and other wild plants to add a change of flavor.  They all serve the same purpose combined.  They are the first dish of spring and they serve as a "spring tonic". The young stalks can also be peeled and fried like okra or simply include them, cooked, in your pot of greens. Never eat it raw.

You know you did not change the water enough, if the inside of your mouth peels.  Just a minor discomfort, not deadly.

After the water is drained during the last boil, put greens in skillet with seasoning (traditionally, bacon drippings and salt) and cook the liquids out.  Many people like eggs scrambled within their greens but I prefer mine straight up.

I have eaten poke salad, cooked, every spring of my life and find myself hungry for it as the shoots peek out of the ground.

May sound kinda strange to eat a plant that could make you sick, but I think it's good to know where the food is if the grocery stores close.

18 comments:

ellen abbott said...

so much country knowledge is lost, being lost. I wouldn't know poke if I stepped on it and certainly didn't know it was poisonous. how long do you boil it if you have to change the water three times! seems like you would boil all the nutrition right out of it.

LindaG said...

Well, I agree it's good to know. But I would be afraid I'd pick the wrong plant or cook it wrong.

Never having eaten any. Though I have heard the song many times. ;)

I wonder who ate the first leaves and how they determined how it had to be done...

Happy Sunday to you all!

P.S. I envy Marcy her fishing hole. If it were mine, you'd always know where to find me. ;)

EmptyNester said...

It really is good to know these things--especially the boiling part. LOL

Linda in New Mexico said...

Wow, poison huh? I heard folks in Tenn. talking about poke salad but I have never even seen any let alone have any. And now that song will be playing in my head all day. Poke salad Annie....lalalala The Olde Bagg

Rae said...

Guess I am a fraidy cat - I'd stay away from eating it, but I don't have the knowledge to pick the right kind and fix it up right. Actually I think it is a pretty plant.

Jenean said...

No not strange, rhubarb and make yo sick if you eat the leaves...elderberry too but it makes good wine! bon appetite!

An English Shepherd said...

Sounds srummy :-)

John Gray said...

poke salad
sounds disguesting!!!
lol

Dawn said...

WOW! You are super brave!!!
:)

Rising Rainbow said...

I have heard of this but never eaten it and for that matter not sure I knew anyone who did, until now.

Country Gal said...

Never had Poke salad, we dont grow that plant in our neck of the woods but suure sounds good. Great post photos and info. Have a wonderful day !

Nora said...

I've never had the pleasure of eating poke salad as it is real American. I knew none of the facts that are very interesting. Was it the Indians who knew about this plant first?

Sue said...

That's is just so interesting (in keeping with your blog, as usual)!

=)

Pat said...

Yikes! Don't know if I'd have the nerve to eat this! I'm a 'fraidy cat!

Hope said...

I think it's a good idea to know where the food is if the stores close. I've never heard of poke before is it native to your area or would a canadian from alberta have it but have a different name for it?

DesertHen said...

I remember my grandpa talking about Poke Salad when I was really little. In all the years since, I haven't heard it mentioned once. I think I'll pass on the peeling mouth and the possibility of getting sick...cause I would probably forget to rinse it the required amount of times!

Nezzy said...

My FIL use to go out and eat the berries for arthritis and lived to a rip old age. Go figure.

Now, all I want to do is sing "Polk Salad Annie"!!!

("Gators got you Granny...ooomph..chop")

Have a great day sweetie!

dmraz said...

Ahhh great memory, and really tasty stuff!! I thought you were really pulling my leg when you started pulling the weeds in our pasture!! LOL Have to say it was great when you cooked it but don't think I'd ever try in myself!! In fact I don't even think I'd recognize it again. Either way another great memory of your effort to teach this naive city girl!!!

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