Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Poke Salad

 

 

Phytolacca americana

 

 

Also known as Poke Plant, Pokeberry, Poke Salat, Inkberry, Polk Bush, and Poke Root.

The greenish white flower stalks develop into purple berries. Many species of birds are attracted to the berries. Although they are poisonous to humans, horses, swine, and cattle, birds can eat them without any ill effects.

Native Americans used the berries for dye, and introduced it to early settlers. The early American settlers used the berries for ink as well as dye. The Declaration of Independence is said to be written with fermented Pokeberry ink.

 

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All parts of the plant are considered poisonous and  much effort has been taken to warn people of the danger of eating poke salad. Although it is not as popular a food source as it once was, interest in it persists.

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Writer - Windows Live

In the spring, the tender shoots are picked. They must be boiled for 5 minutes, drained, then boiled again to remove toxic properties. The greens can then be finished off in an iron skillet with bacon drippings, salt, and pepper. Sometimes eggs and/or cornmeal may be added. One half cup of the greens contain 35 calories, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 90% of the daily requirements of Vitamin A, 60% of Vitamin C, 8% Calcium, and 6% Iron.*

 

*nutritional information was taken from www.wildpantry.com

17 comments:

Roses and Lilacs said...

It sure grows everywhere up here. The plants are like a little tree, you can't just pull them up. I always leave some in out of the way places for the birds to eat.
Marnie

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Marnie, I do the same thing--I have a feeling the birds are the ones that sow it so freely everywhere! ;-)

Nola @ the Alamo said...

The birds gave me one two years ago, didn't have a clue what it was until my neighbor asked "why are you growing a poke bush." I said I didn't know what it was but I like the bright purple berries. Of course, I let it go to seed and have them all the time now. One mans weed is another mans flower.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

I agree, Nola. I think some people can't see past it not being a designer plant. I love the fact it has such a history. Like dandelions or morning glories--if you don't want it growing everywhere--pull it up. I think those purple berries are so striking, and the birds love them.

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi MG,
I remember needing an identification of that plant in my garden at the neighbors' yard last summer. In the end, I think I decided to pull it out. I haven't noticed any this year, but maybe I'll let one grow if I do. I have seen the other one called Spanish needles. That, I am digging out, because I got some of those needles on a shirt last year, and it was very difficult getting them off.

Susie said...

Even tho you would never catch me eating it I knew people who use to when I was a little girl.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Hi Sue. It seems Pokeberry needs some warm weather to really start growing, so you may see it soon. Some people won't allow it in their gardens at all, while some of us let it grow. You do have to keep a watch that it doesn't take over. But I think it is worth it to see the birds go crazy over those purple berries.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Susie,

Some of the articles I read from county extension offices brought up the point that there are too many safe options for greens to take a chance on Poke salad. After reading the side effects, I sure wouldn't want to take a chance.

Rose said...

When I saw your title, Jenny, I thought of the song "Poke Salad," and sure enough, a few seconds later, the song started playing here:) Thanks for the nostalgia. I always wondered what poke salad was--after reading this, I think I'll stick to spinach:)

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Rose,
I'm with you--give me spinach--or a plethora of other greens instead! I guess there was a time, the Depression comes to mind, when Poke Salad was all there was to eat. I didn't really get into the herbal properties of it, but it has also been used for folk remedies.

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

Interesting, all I know about poke salad is Poke Salad Annie :), I didn't know about the plant being poisonous.

Marie said...

Hmmmm. Very interesting. Poke was always considered a weed in my garden.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Hi IGW, I probably should have gone into the herbal uses for Pokeweed too. A very interesting plant with lots of history.

Marie, I think it is safe to say it is pretty much a plant only a bird can appreciate. ;-)

Joseph said...

The larkspurs are gorgeous! I want some! The mexican hat and cornflower are also a similar sight as they are loving life in my part of Round Rock, too! I love your art prof's philosophy. Happy accidents ... kind of reminds me of Bob Ross, the happy tree painter. :)

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Joseph, I will trying my hand at harvesting the Larkspur seeds this fall. If I am successful, I will be glad to share them with you. Yes--I remember Bob Ross! He was a very special person. So laid back with a wonderful attitude about life, and made painting look so easy.

Lancashire rose said...

It was interesting to read about pokeweed. One year a bird brought pokeweed to our garden. I had no idea what it was but was fascinated by the fruit formation. It was like a tree and the mocking bird came to fee,. When I learnt how invasive it could be I had to get a pick axe to get it out. It was a tree. from time to time a seedling appears and I yank it out. It was fun while it lasted. I think I read somewhere that you can buy it canned! I'm up for trying new things but not this.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Hi Lanchashire Rose,

I have read the stalk of the Pokeweed, can get as thick as a man's leg. I do pull most of it up in the Spring, but usually keep one or two for the birds.

I don't know if it is canned anymore or not, but I would think that would be a good way to ensure it has been processed enough to eat if you really had a taste for it. Me? I'll eat my spinach, thank you! ;-)