How to Identify, Harvest, and Prepare Pokeweed and Poke Sallet - Delishably - Food and Drink
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How to Identify, Harvest, and Prepare Pokeweed and Poke Sallet

Larry Rankin is a product of rural America who takes an interest in sharing some little known traditions associated with country living.

Young pokeweed suitable for harvesting.

Young pokeweed suitable for harvesting.

Pokeweed can be found throughout the majority of the Continental United States but is far more prevalent in the central and eastern states of the South. It is a poisonous weed, related to nightshade, but if prepared for consumption correctly, it is actually considered a delicacy by many denizens of the rural United States. In fact, in its cooked form, pokeweed is so popular that many states, especially those in the South, hold yearly festivals in the early spring to commemorate it.

The cooked version of this weed is properly referred to as "poke sallet," but like with so many traditions that have survived via word of mouth, the pronunciation can often be found altered, most commonly to "poke salad." You might also see it spelled "polk salad" or "polk sallet." The "polk" spelling was popularized by a 1968 country/pop song by Tony Joe White called "Polk Salad Annie."

The term "sallet" is of French origin and refers to a mess of greens cooked until tender. For example, cooked spinach could be referred to as a sallet, but raw spinach would be called a salad. This distinction is important for reasons that will be elaborated upon later. Pokeweed should never be eaten raw.

In this article, I will give you an overview of the potential dangers of this weed, how and when one might harvest it in relative safety, and then detail a popular way to prepare this dish.

Know That Raw Pokeweed Is Poisonous

About the Poisonousness of Pokeweed

Let's start by discussing all the ways that pokeweed can harm and/or kill you. It is worthy of note that no U.S. food organization endorses the consumption of pokeweed regardless of how it is prepared.

That being said, I would like to add that this dish has never harmed anyone I know that was aware of how to properly prepare it, and even the stories I’ve heard of an unwitting guest or relative finding a bowl of the uncooked leaves in a kitchen and mistaking them for spinach or some other edible, raw, green leafy, only ended with a day’s bout of diarrhea.

In addition, if, for example, pork is improperly prepared, it too can harm and/or kill a person. The FDA and the like are fine with giving pork the green light. My point is that foraging is becoming increasingly popular these days, and whether or not you choose to prepare and eat this salad is entirely up to you. It isn’t illegal, and if you are the sort of person who can follow directions and knows how to avoid cross-contamination, this recipe might be for you.

Using Life-Cycle of Pokeweed Berries to Determine if Pokeweed Plant is Harvestable (Never Consume the Berries)

No berries. Plant is harvestable.

No berries. Plant is harvestable.

Small white berries. Plant is harvestable.

Small white berries. Plant is harvestable.

Green berries. Harvesting plant is questionable.

Green berries. Harvesting plant is questionable.

Some green and fully ripe purple berries. Do not harvest plant.

Some green and fully ripe purple berries. Do not harvest plant.

Fully ripe berries. Don't harvest plant.

Fully ripe berries. Don't harvest plant.

Which Part Is Poisonous?

Poison can be found throughout this raw plant, and while birds and many insects are immune to these toxins, humans are not. The level of this toxicity is strongly related to the part of the plant being handled and the plant's life-stages.

The Life Stages

  • A young plant. When this plant first sprouts in the early spring, the leaves are at their least poisonous. Throughout the maturation of the pokeweed, the plant's toxicity increases.
  • A fruiting plant. At some point, the weed will fruit. The fruit, especially fully ripened, are considered by many to be quite toxic.
  • A mature plant. When it reaches maturity, pokeweed can grow to over ten feet in height. It goes from a green to a beautiful purple color. Attracted by their beauty, many a child has became ill and it has even been suggested that some youths and adults with immunosuppression or lowered organ function have died from ingesting these berries. Because they are viewed as such a potential threat, some have suggested trying to eliminate pokeweed altogether.

Plant Parts

  • Roots. Throughout the maturation process the most toxic part of the pokeweed is the root system. You should avoid touching the roots altogether.
  • Leave and stems. The leaves are the least toxic part of the plant, followed by the stems.
  • The fruit. Like alluded to earlier, you definitely don't want to eat the fruit, as it too is toxic, though researchers vary on their opinion of its lethality. These ripened berries begin life tiny and white, then grow to their full size and turn green, and eventually end life as an eye-catching black or purple.

Despite all the negative press, the mature pokeweed is still employed by some in plant arrangements because of its beauty, and the plant is also sometimes rendered down to produce ink.

Opinion

What Happens If You Get Pokeweed Poisoning?

Possible Effects of Pokeweed Poisoning

What factors affect poisoning?

The consequences of pokeweed poisoning vary depending on

  • the part of the plant ingested,
  • the maturation of the plant,
  • the amount of the plant ingested,
  • and the physical condition and age of the individual affected.

Are certain groups more at risk?

As with most anything that is potentially harmful, the extremely young and old, as well as those with a compromised immune system and/or organ problems, are more likely to have the most pronounced ill effects from exposure to the pokeweed. This is also true of many other foods, like sushi, for example.

If you are pregnant, this plant should definitely be added to the long list of things you simply don’t handle or consume in any way, shape, or form. It is believed the pokeweed’s toxins can penetrate the womb and cause a number of problems, including birth defects. The same can be said for pregnant women eating or handling many raw foods.

What does pokeweed poisoning look like?

Recovery from a light poisoning can be expected in 1 to 2 days, and symptoms can be as mild as a touch of stomach cramping and diarrhea. That being said, as with any poisoning, medical assistance should be sought regardless of the perceived severity of the symptoms.

More severe cases of pokeweed poisoning will manifest themselves with an emetic (vomiting) response in as little as two hours after ingestion. Other signs of poisoning include a burning sensation in the mouth and blood in vomit and diarrhea of the affected.

In cases of pokeweed-related death, the respiratory system and organs simply become paralyzed and cease to function.

Can you get pokeweed poisoning by touching it?

Whether weeding or harvesting, it is also of note that a pokeweed, especially a mature one, can penetrate skin with contact. In addition, there is some evidence that contact with the weed can be carcinogenic. Because of this, one should always use gloves when handling pokeweed.

Are the toxins completely gone after you cook it?

Like with alcohol or sushi or beef that is not well done, regardless of how it is handled or prepared, trace amounts of toxins will likely be present, but healthy bodies should be able to handle them with ease.

Are you properly terrified yet?

As bad as these possible side-effects can sound, please keep in mind that none of these threats are uncommon in a number of things that most of us routinely prepare and consume.

With proper precaution, sickness due to pokeweed is unlikely. In comparison, handling a piece of pork that happens to contain a particularly bad strain of trichinosis is arguably more dangerous.

I'm Ready. How Do I Harvest and Prepare This Stuff?

Using Pokeweed Stalk to Determine if Pokeweed Leaves are Harvestable

Stalk is completely green. Plant is harvestable..

Stalk is completely green. Plant is harvestable..

Stem starting to become harder and take on purplish hue.  Harvesting plant is questionable.

Stem starting to become harder and take on purplish hue. Harvesting plant is questionable.

Large plant with hard deep purple or wood color stem,  Do not harvest.

Large plant with hard deep purple or wood color stem, Do not harvest.

Insects and birds beat you to it!  Leaves will actually grow back, but plant will likely be over developed before you can harvest again.

Insects and birds beat you to it! Leaves will actually grow back, but plant will likely be over developed before you can harvest again.

Step One: Find the Plant

Proper pokeweed harvesting is as important as any other step in successfully and safely preparing poke sallet.

Know Where to Look

The first step in harvesting poke is finding the stuff, and though it grows in all manner of places, this can be quite a hurdle for the newly initiated. Despite the fact that pokeweed has a very distinctive look when mature (to a point that it is quite difficult to mistake it for any other plant), you want to harvest this weed in early spring during its youth when it is between about 1 and 2 feet tall, because this is when toxicity levels in the plant are at their lowest. Remember to wear gloves! At this point in the plant's development, it is completely green and looks like many other large-leafed green plants.

There are a few tricks, however, in finding optimal spots for growth. As I mentioned earlier, pokeweed can be found in most of the Continental U.S. but is more prevalent in the central to eastern states of the South. The following three spots are good places to start.

  • Recently disturbed spots: It likes to grow in any spot that has been disturbed, either naturally or otherwise. For example, you can expect the weed to pop up anywhere along fence lines in the spring, especially if the fence line is well-kempt. Cleared forest areas, either through natural or unnatural means, are another piece of prime real estate for this plant.
  • Places with lots of cattle: My personal favorite place to look for pokeweed is any spot where cattle are kept in close proximity for a period of time each year, such as a small pasture where calves are weaned. In places like these, the plant grows in abundance.
  • Wherever weeds grow: Basically any waste place where weeds grow is a good place to look for it, which brings us back to our initial problem: lots of weeds grow in these types of places, and lots of them look like a young pokeweed.

Use Your Sniffer

Another good way to identify pokeweed is by smell. The smell of this plant growing in large amounts is distinctive, and I know it by heart. The problem is that I don’t know how to describe this smell to you. It’s like when you look for wild onions; you tell everyone to smell for onions, and everyone knows what onions smell like.

Well, pokeweed smells like pokeweed. But until you have an experiential reference, you’re out of luck.

Enlist Help or Keep Track of Where Mature Pokeweed Lives

The fact of the matter is that unless you are a trained botanist, finding a young pokeweed appropriate for eating is difficult to do alone for the first time. Enlist an experienced pokeweed hunter to help you out, if you can. If not, you might try this: take note of where mature pokeweeds grow and come back the next spring. More likely than not, the green leafy plants you will see growing in these spots are young versions.

Again, spotting the highly poisonous, mature version of the plant is easy. They are 4- to 12-feet tall, purple, and have black, shiny berries. Again, you would never eat the plant in this form. You are only using this as a frame of reference to find the pokeweed when it is completely green next spring. Eating a pokeweed plant with any coloring that is not green is a huge no-no, even if the leaves are still green. The toxicity levels by this point are simply too high.

If you don’t want to wait a whole year to eat poke sallet, just ask somebody that knows how to find it. Most poke-sallet eaters will be more than helpful, if for no other reason than that the plant is so darn prevalent. It is no order of national security to poke-sallet eaters that they keep the pokeweed’s growth places a secret.

And if you can just have someone help you find plants appropriate for harvest once, you will likely never need help again. Finding pokeweed for the first time is probably the hardest step of the whole process of this recipe, but if you have a little help, it really isn’t that difficult.

Watch a Documentary

Below, you'll find a five-minute documentary about pokeweed. Joe York of the Southern Foodways Alliance interviewed two people, a woman who loves to cook this weed and an ethnobotanist, to make the helpful video you find here. This video has some great images of the young plant and might help you know a little bit more about what you should look for.

A Five-Minute Documentary About Pokeweed

Pick This (Preferably While Wearing Gloves)

When Picking Pokeweed, One wants to Avoid Contact with the Highly Toxic Roots.

When Picking Pokeweed, One wants to Avoid Contact with the Highly Toxic Roots.

Step Two: Safely Picking Pokeweed

Wear gloves and avoid the roots. The next step is physically harvesting the plant. I highly recommend wearing gloves when you touch the raw pokeweed to avoid any poisoning from skin contact, though many do not. Perhaps more importantly, make sure that you have a sharp cutting tool and that you cut the pokeweed above the root system, as the root system is the most toxic part of the plant. Again, a lot of people just pull it up roots and all and are fine, but being as these roots are the most deadly part of the plant, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Pick a whole lot of it. When you get the weed home and it is ready to cook, you will remove the edible leaves from the stem, and then the leaves will go through an extensive cooking process to lessen the plant’s toxicity. This will cause what once looked like a great deal of pokeweed to reduce in size immensely. For example, a paper grocery bag full will probably only yield about 2 large servings of poke sallet.

Cook it the same day. I would recommend that you cook the weed the same day you harvest it, but if you can’t, educate everyone in the household that is mature enough to understand the plant’s toxicity, and keep the pokeweed out of reach of small children and pets.

The Recipe

Poke Sallet with Fried Potatoes and Salt Pork

Poke Sallet with Fried Potatoes and Salt Pork

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

2 hours

3 hours

5 hours

Pick a lot. The pokeweed reduces down drastically.

Ingredients

  • Pokeweed leaves
  • Bacon fat, enough to coat pan
  • Crushed bacon, to taste
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Take Note:

Below, you'll find a set of succinct instructions, followed by much more involved instructions. If this is your first experience with pokeweed, as with all steps involved in making this poisonous plant fit for consumption, it will be worth your while to take note of the instructions' finer points and read the longer version very thoroughly.

Poke Sallet Recipe

  1. Remove pokeweed leaves from plant.
  2. Rinse pokeweed leaves in cool water.
  3. Bring leaves to rolling boil in large pot for 20 minutes.
  4. Pour leaves into sieve and rinse in cool water.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 two more times.
  6. Panfry pokeweed leaves for a couple of minutes in bacon grease.
  7. Add crushed bacon, salt, and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve and enjoy.

Preparing Poke Sallet

The following is a Southern-style of preparing poke sallet, so of course it involves frying. For those of you who prefer your food healthier, this dish doesn't have to be fried, but it is essential that it go through the multi-stage boiling and rinsing detoxification process first regardless of how you choose to incorporate it in your food.

  1. I recommend wearing gloves at the beginning of the cooking process. You want to start by removing all the leaves from the plant. This is the part you will eat. Dispose of the rest of the plant in a safe manner.
  2. Wash the leaves in cool water. Then place the leaves in a pot of water, and bring them to a rolling boil for 20 minutes. Next pour the leaves into a sieve. Rinse the leaves with cool water.
  3. Repeat the above boiling and rinsing process at least one more time. Personally, like most people I know that prepare poke sallet, I only do the boiling and rinse twice, but many recipes recommend boiling and rinsing 3 times.
  4. You are likely safe to dispose of your gloves after the first boiling and rinsing process. The thinking behind this is that you probably are no longer at risk of contact poisoning after the first boil/rinse, and continuing to wear the same pair of gloves might cause toxins to be put back into the sallet that you have worked so hard to extract.
  5. If you are very cautious, one might use a new pair of gloves for each handling of the pokeweed leaves throughout the boil/rinse process. That being said, many people who have prepared poke sallet throughout their lives have never used gloves at all with no perceivable consequence.
  6. You definitely want to wash your boiling pot out after each boiling cleanse as not to put any toxins back in the pokeweed leaves that you have taken out. The same goes for your sieve. Clean it before each new rinse.
  7. After you have properly detoxified the leaves, you are going to panfry them for a couple of minutes in bacon grease. Last, you add a bit of crumbled bacon and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve your poke sallet as a side. It is an excellent compliment for most any meal. The flavor is quite similar to fresh, cooked spinach, but subtler in nature. If you like fresh, cooked greens and you follow the steps properly, you will enjoy this dish.
However you choose to prepare pokeweed, the boil/rinse process is essential.

However you choose to prepare pokeweed, the boil/rinse process is essential.

Additional Nutritional Information

You might be interested to know that poke sallet is a substantial source of vitamins and minerals, especially if it isn't of the fried variety.

The leaves of the pokeweed are the plant's most readily-edible part.

The leaves of the pokeweed are the plant's most readily-edible part.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: We have eaten pokeweed and poke sallet our whole life without any boiling at all. We pick it with our bare hands and also eat the stem. Have some people actually died from doing it this way?

Answer: I've heard a lot of reference to it being deadly, but I've been unable to find a specific case study to that effect.

I know for certain that it can give you diarrhea if uncooked. That you haven't gotten sick may be true, but I do not condone eating it without at least one parboil.

It's a free country. You can do what you want, but I think it's unwise.

Back to it causing death, those it would kill would probably not be healthy adults. People with immunosuppression, especially organ function problems, would really be putting their lives in jeopardy eating underprepared pokeweed.

In addition, I'm of the opinion it could really cause fetal problems and very possibly fetal death if consumed by pregnant women.

Question: I grew up on poke salad in Arkansas. It was commonly mixed with turnip, mustard greens, and spinach, and eaten with crackling or hot water cornbread. Have you tried it?

Answer: No, I have not tried poke salad. It sounds wonderful.

I never tire of hearing the ways poke can be fixed. Like any green, the possibilities are endless.

I really like cornbread, and this sounds like a winning combination.

Question: Does poke salad smell spicey?

Answer: No, not particularly, unless it's seasoned to be spicy.

It's like a cooked green.

Question: How long will poke salad keep before it's cooked?

Answer: Like any consumable plant, if you don't take measures to preserve it, the sooner you cook it, the better. You probably have at least three days or so before it goes bad.

© 2015 Larry Rankin

Comments

CRLuther on July 05, 2020:

I have eaten poke Sallet my entire life always with the parboiling until the water ran clear but we never picked it. Instead we bought it from people who did until we found Allens canning companys cut leaf Poke Sallet greens in the grocery store which was soooo much easier since you just opened the can and poured off the liquid.

Unfortunately Allens stopped canning it in 2000 citing the difficulty of supply because of lack of people growing or picking. I now live in Michigan and have several plants growing but havent bothered to pick or cook it..... I am now retired and I have decided to start harvesting and freezing again thanks for the info.

Vickie Madar Arkansas on June 20, 2020:

My Mother and Grandmother would either boil it or cook it and then scramble it with eggs and a little green onion; Delicious!! I am 65 but still remember my Grandmother stopping the car suddenly while driving down the highway and saying "Y'all kids get out and let's pick some Poke Salad." Good Memories!! Thanks for the tips!

terry berry on June 02, 2020:

mom cooked poke all my life (I'm 70). would help her pick the small leaves. never wore gloves, never had any reactions. she fixed hers several ways but the one I like best was cooked with red vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. I always leave the plants in tack so they will grow the next spring.

Vicky in Ark. on April 10, 2020:

I grew up picking and eating poke salad. I have also canned it I washed and blanched as normal and then processed it following directions for turnip greens and it turn out wonderful.

Jessie on March 20, 2020:

The Poke in the name actually comes from years ago a paper sack or cloth sack was called a Poke. I have eaten it all my life as well and never ever was it boiled never.Its doesn't matter about the color of the berries on it..you just knew to pick the small leaves because they were more tender and even then we would just simply strip off the greens from the leaves with out bare hands..cooked it down in a skillet just like you would any other greens pretty much as the recipe tells you here except for the fact that we would always crack an egg and scramble it up with it...any greens that I know of such as turnip greens will give you a cleaning out somewhat its ruffage you know? I am 64 years old and still alive and well never ever have I or anyone I have ever known has got sick much less dead from Poke Salad...thats ridiculous! I do know however we always knew how to prepare it..passed down from grand ma to grand child for years but we never ate the stalk part...it has a milky substance inside it and we just were always told not to eat it...so perhaps there lies the difference .....Its knowing what part to eat and how to cook it...It is one of the best tasting dishes you could ever want to eat.

Judy, Guyana South America on November 10, 2019:

We call it deer callaloo we never boil it it is cooked with meat and coconut milk tastes really good but some people pour hot water to take out the stingy taste

Jerry on October 29, 2019:

Have eaten my whole life do boil three times and add scrambled eggs at the frying stage. Love it

cdbigguy on July 09, 2019:

I've been eating Poke most all of my life and I'm in my 70s. My mother used to prepare the stalks and I suppose she cooked them first then cut them up like Okra and fried them. They were delicious. Neither I nor my mother ever precooked Poke more than once and poured that water off and I have never ever seen or heard of anyone getting sick. You don't have to cook it for 5 hours. Sure wash the raw leaves off as you would any vegetable picked from the garden to remove any of all the things (insect or bird) which have been on the plant. I have never known anyone to wear gloves while picking or preparing Poke. We always harvested the young plants and cut them off above the roots, so I have never had contact with the roots and you don't need to. If your'e inclined to eat some Poke, but it's late in the season (but before berries) just harvest the top 8 to 10 inches of the plant. The rest is tougher. Now, if you are ripping the plant up because you don't want it growing there, that's different.

During the second cooking season to taste, which could be olive oil, much as you would spinach. Poke is a mild green somewhere between spinach and swiss chard. If you like it with bacon grease and bacon bits, then by all means put it in the skillet.

Barb on July 08, 2019:

I live in Michigan …...Have been earing poke as long as I can remember. The funny thing is that my Mom is from Tennessee and a lot of her relatives will not eat it!!! My husband and I love it once I convinced him he would not die if he ate it …..lol I loved the article that I read on this site about peeling and breading the stalks....I love okra and I am going to try this for sure. I clean my poke very well, but I only boil it once with some of the stems on if they are tender....Then goes into some hot oil and stir in some beaten eggs …..then some cooked pinto beans with some buttermilk cornbread ….a sweet onion and cant get a better meal anywhere. I enjoyed all of he information that I learned from everyone.....Than you very much !!!

John on May 07, 2019:

As far as being poisonous I’m not sure. My Mamaw is 96 and my dads 70 and they have eaten the berries. Mamaw said people ate em for different medical reasons. Dad said he use to get boils real bad and that’s why he ate em. Said they tasted bad. I’m not advocating eating them just giving info

John on May 06, 2019:

The stalk is also great to eat. Taste like hickory chickens. Get it when it’s really young roll in flour. Yum yum.

Brenda Neal on December 01, 2018:

We ate poke sallet growing up we fried it and scrambled eggs it is so good

Chuck Denison on September 26, 2018:

Found a poke weed growing outside my house last year, and not knowing what it was posted a picture on Facebook. My niece identified it and I confirmed the identification by looking it up online. Living in Michigan, this was the first time I had seen a poke weed, and was surprised to learn about it's toxicity, because of the song, Poke Salad Annie. I see the plant has returned this year and also noticed another one about 250 ft. away on the back of my property. Also read articles about it being used as herbal treatment for different things including cancer. In fact some articles claimed eating one or two of the purple berries was beneficial. So now I am confused, are some people immune to the effects? Might like to try poke sallet cooked with bacon as I love greens of most any kind, but after reading this article will have to wait until next spring as both plants on my property are fully mature at this point. I live in Highland Twp, Michigan so if there is anyone with experience in the preparation would welcome you to come over and we could enjoy them together.

pbell1 on September 09, 2018:

Very interesting reading. Since moving back to Arkansas, walking through my neighborhood park, I have discovered vast growths of Pokeweed. I recall my mom and dad teaching me how to find the heavy stalks (approx.5/8 to 3/4 inches in diameter). We did boil the leaves several times before finally cooking with bacon drippings, onions and seasoning and what we did with the stalks was even more delicious! We would peel the outer "skin" from the poke stalk, cut the stalks in the same way that okra was cut to fry, then fry the poke in the same cornmeal batter that we used for okra. YUM!

james Smith on August 30, 2018:

I never knew poke was poisonous.When I was a kid I would go camping with my uncle. We would hike a few miles down on the creek and eat what we caught or gathered. We would cut the poke stems into about 1 inch pieces peel the hard purple layer off of the outside roll them in flour and cornmeal and fry them.

We always had fried Poke stock when we went camping and I never felt any ill effects from them.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on August 26, 2018:

Don't know what the correlation between eating poke and not having worms would be, lol

Rusty on August 26, 2018:

I boil it once, drain, and boil it with salt pork. I drink the juice too. Ain't got no worms.

billthehawker on July 06, 2018:

My mom cooked poke with scrabbled eggs cooked in bacon grease

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 13, 2018:

Hypatia's Daughter: That's just amazing to me! Such a prevalent plant.

Are you originally from that far north or are you importing the tradition from somewhere farther south?

Hypatia's Daughter on June 13, 2018:

I just picked a mess yesterday (in Riverside Park Manhattan, no less!). I wash and rinse three times. Can't wait. Taste of my childhood.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 07, 2018:

Jimbo: sounds good.

Jimbo on June 04, 2018:

Fry with bacon then scramble eggs in with it

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 25, 2018:

Debra: that's very similar to how I cook them.

I ate it growing up all the time and was an adult before I cooked it for myself.

I remember how surprised I was how much of it you needed to make just a few servings worth of poke:-)

Thanks so much for sharing.

Debra Carter on May 25, 2018:

I live in east TN. My grandmother showed me how to pick as fix poke sallet at a young age. My mom and I picked two large garbage bags full that had come up in an unused garden plot. I like to harvest it when the plant is immature, before berries appear but it can be harvested later than that. I like to get the tender (young leaves) but older leaves can be harvested as long as the veins are not red. I bring my greens to a boil, drain the brine, add water and repeat. after bringing to a boil a third time, they are ready to drain and fix or freeze. It takes a lot of greens to make a good mess. I got 6 quart-size freezer bags out of a large trashbag full. I like to add hot bacon grease and bits, sometimes a little olive oil to my greens and salt to taste before eating. They are so, so, good.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 19, 2018:

Pamelabe: wonderful account.

For starters, I've had it not fried. It's wonderful that way, and certainly a bit healthier.

In my experience most people over a certain age tend to know about poke, especially if they're from Ok, Ar, Tx, La, that area.

Not sure exactly what state you call home, but if you're from one of the four above, it is amazing if your elders haven't heard of it. Has to be a experiencial gap.

You say Ozarks. To my knowledge that includes OK, AR, Ks, and Mz. All those states are places where you can enjoy poke, but I don't know if eating it is as much of a staple in Missouri and Kansas.

However you came to it, I'm glad you found it and enjoy it.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Pamelabe on May 19, 2018:

I grew up in the suburbs and learned about poke when I moved to the inner city. The weed grew in vacant lots and someone told me about it being edible, but poisonous when the berries turn purple. Well. I tucked that little bit of info away, knowing that nothing makes me happier than getting needful things for free, like harvesting weeds. It was years later when I finally bought my farm that I started harvesting, cooking, and canning this wonderful vegetable. I use the 3 rinse process, but I don't fry it. Instead, I put a couple chunks of pork sausage in with the last boiling along with some dried onion. Wonderful. I just came back from the corral with a bucket full and my 93 year-old Dad wondered why his grandparents never ate poke. They were surely dirt poor and lived in this area, north of the Ozarks where poke is plentiful. We thought it might have been a cultural thing, though I've never known the Scots Irish to look down their noses at anything good to eat.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 14, 2018:

Jhimi: I don't hate you for it. Sounds like a wonderful idea. I parboil twice, personally.

I have never stored it for winter, but I see no reason not to.

The reason I've gotten such a response is that our culture has forgotten pokeweed, so some people are learning about it for the first time.

They get hung up on the fact that it's poisonous if prepared wrong, but fail to see that this is true of many foods.

Just as an example, the potential for danger with sushi is quite palpable, but people line up around the block for it, myself included.

If you prepare it right, pokeweed is very safe, in my opinion. Just make sure you do it right.

Really enjoyed your response.

Jhimi Nance on May 13, 2018:

I am surprised to see so many comments regarding Polk Sallet. My Lord. I am 68 y/o, every spring and summer that I can remember I have harvested the plant, pat boiled it stuck it in the freezer and enjoyed it most when it was out of season. I know people hate me for that..LOL

but there is nothing better than a plate of the smaller with scrambled eggs and bacon.. Hummmmm.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 08, 2018:

Teresa: my pleasure:-)

Teresa Shook on May 08, 2018:

Larry, I noticed some of them being downright disrespectful but buddy I wouldn't let it bother me too much. The true polk lovers will try to carry on this old time tradition and alot of it will stick and it will be continued on through out time. My Pawpaw was born in 1898 and when I was 8 and starting to read books I asked him if he had ever picked cotton. He told me about it then he grew me several plants so he could show me how and what it is all about. Let's just keep pushing the polk on our kids and grandbabies, a generation will come along that loves it as much as you and I. My oldest 4 help me pick polk all the time and are pretty good at finding it. Thanks for all the info buddy.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 08, 2018:

Teresa: you know I've had a bunch of people jump down my throat for suggesting you boil more than once.

More and more I'm seeing long time enjoyers of poke who boil 2 and 3 times. I know a lot of folks only do once, but I boil at least twice.

All of your information was dead on if you don't want to chance getting sick. I grew up in southeastern OK, but I think poke is even more abundant in western Arkansas.

Sad about young people not liking it. It tastes good! I'm afraid it will be lost. It's my hope that the new edible wild plant craze amongst hipsters will bring it back. I recently turned 40, and I'm as young a person as I know that still eats poke on occasion.

Thanks again. I really enjoyed your comments.

Teresa Shook on May 08, 2018:

I am 56 and was raised in Eastern Oklahoma but have lived my adult years in the Arkansas River Valley between Fort Smith and Little Rock. I have eaten polk salad (as we call it) all of my life. My granny and then my Momma showed me how to cook it when I was still in elementary school. I boil it 3 times with a thorough cold rinse after each boil. 30 minutes boiling 1st time, 25 minutes the 2nd and 20 minutes the final boil. It runs rampant on our farm in Johnson County. I harvest it from early spring to mid summer, but never if the berries are purple. Granny said if you eat polk from purple berried plants you'd have the worst stomach ache you'd ever had. She also emphasized the importance of the boiling and rinsing. She said the importance of the 30-25-20 minute boiling time was because every time you boiled it there was less poison to boil out. I am the only person in my immediate family - husband, children and grandbabies that will eat polk. My mom, sisters, aunts and cousins all eat it as much as I do so I think as the generations grow up, less and less of the younger ones are exposed to it, therefore don't eat it. I made my 5 kids try it when they were young, same with my grandbabies. They just flat out don't like it. I had to like it I guess because we had it year round every time we had beans or peas. Momma and Granny canned it, but I freeze it in single size servings just for me. I fry it with onions and scrambled eggs. Never once been sick.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 08, 2018:

Sherman: great stuff! I'm really interested in the canning of it.

I very much enjoy hearing from people who have worked with poke there whole life. It's always a pleasure:-)

Sherman on May 07, 2018:

We boil poke twice, serve it with favorite salad dressing. Bacon grease and Apple cider vinegar was Grandma's favorite and mine also. Bacon bits and green onions go good too.

I can a bit for out of season eating. Treat it like green beans when canning.

I cut poke off at ground level and it comes back with new growth all summer long.

When I was a kid we dug the roots, planted them in a box of dirt in the cellar and they sprouted several times. The leaves were pale, almost white and had little flavor. I should have tried a grow light to see if the plant would have turned green but that didn't occur to me at the time.

Maby this fall I will try it.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 06, 2018:

Karen: with eggs is certainly very popular.

Thanks so much for dropping by.

Karen Nowers on May 06, 2018:

Grew up eating poke scrambled in eggs with bacon

Marcia on May 04, 2018:

I love that sping green!!

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 04, 2018:

Kathy: thanks for chiming in.

Kathy Dover on May 04, 2018:

I have ate poke all my life ...with this dish papared right it will never fail.I is a wonderful dish

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 02, 2018:

Glenda: that's an intriguing question. Theoretically I suppose a person could grow it purposefully. I don't know how that might be done.

Traditionally, though, it's a wild plant that you go out looking for.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 02, 2018:

Mittie: With eggs is a favorite way. Always glad to hear from fellow pokeweed eaters.

Thanks so much for dropping by.

GLENDA on May 02, 2018:

how do you grow it.

Mittie on May 02, 2018:

I grew up in arkansas eating it. My dad boiled it 2-3 times. He did 2 if the h20 was clear after we drained the water off or 3 if it still had a green tinge.

We ate them scrambled with eggs

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on April 23, 2018:

I have had several grow around my place. You'll need more than a plant's worth to get a good portion. It cooks down a lot.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the article and very much enjoy hearing from you. If you wind up doing a batch, let me know how it turns out.

Jill Spencer from United States on April 23, 2018:

So glad I ran across your article, Larry. I had a beautiful poke weed by the deck last year. I hope it grows there again so I can eat it! At the Jamestown Indian Village this past weekend I read about poke weed. It was a big part of the diet of Powhatan's people. Best to you! Jill

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on April 12, 2018:

Ellen: The nightshade I've seen looks quite a lot different than poke, but I certainly don't know all the variants on that plant.

Thanks for dropping by.

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on April 11, 2018:

Wow!. This looks so much like what is growing wild in my garden in Connecticut. I was always told mine was inedible nightshade. Very interesting.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on April 11, 2018:

Lena: in my experience, most seasoned poke eaters parboil once and cook in oil.

Personally, I prefer to parboil twice.

Thanks for dropping by.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on April 03, 2018:

Gayatri: not much to say. If that's what you do it's what you do. I hope nobody else does. I can't imagine it tastes any good that way.

With the exception of a few greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce, most greens taste pretty awful when not cooked. Poke, even young poke, is at least mildly poisonous. Later on it's more so. Just because you might have been able to not get sick doesn't change that.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on April 03, 2018:

Kevin: I'm glad to final see someone who is familiar with rinsing at least 3 times. Personally I rinse twice. A lot of people only rinse once and give me heck for saying it's more prudent to rinse at least twice, lol

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on April 03, 2018:

Wayne: I can't condone eating the berries. I'm sorry. I know some folks use them for witch doctor like purposes, and I find learning about it very interesting. I also know second hand it makes a good dye. In addition, I've read some university studies that indicate the berries might not be as poisonous as first thought, but they are poisonous, and the roots are quite poisonous.

This article gives a very cautious version. I've said it before. I'll say it again. This is done because it's geared towards the general public and cooking it for the first time. Cautious to me is the responsible way to write it.

Gayatri Melkote on April 03, 2018:

I have cooked and eaten poke weed when is still young and green for about 28 years now. I don't even boil and drain them. I just them like the other greens. I have never even had an upset stomach let alone diarrhea. What shall I say?

Kevin Dail on April 02, 2018:

Poke salad was a staple when I was growing up my mother learned from her mother how to cook and she would bring it to a boil 3 to four times pouring water off and rinsing the greens each time cooking only tender young shoots. At that point she seasoned with bacon grease and salt. When done she served it with fried bacon and boiled eggs and of course cornbread. She picked it by the washtub full and prepared it completely cooked for the freezer so we ate it year round. She always said if it burned your tongue after the 3rd boil rinse and repeat to avoid a upset stomach.

Wayne on March 30, 2018:

My mom had cooked it for years. They are going overboard about the poison. Rinse, boil twice pouring off and then put in a skillet with eggs stirred in. I know people who freeze the berries and eat one a day for arthritis.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on March 05, 2018:

JR: thanks so much for dropping by.

JR on March 02, 2018:

I've ate poke greens since I was a little boy. My grandmother use to can it. We would pick the young leaves and fry it up. I'm 64 now and still love it. I never heard about all the poison other than the berries.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on February 25, 2018:

Audrey: one thing I enjoy about this post is I'm always learning new methods.

Thanks so much for dropping by.

Audrey on February 20, 2018:

We ate the salad part growing up but my dad also fried the stalks and we ate them.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on February 12, 2018:

Dylan: correct.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on February 12, 2018:

Great Northern Troll: it's always the most interesting question, lol. Our ancestors, the smart ones, would say to somebody, "Hey, let's try that," then stay back and see if they died or not.

Who knows? Hunger is the mother of culinary invention. My Grandma grew up on opossum and sweet potatoes. Why? Sometimes it was that or starve to death.

Dylan on February 08, 2018:

A question on the preparation: you say to put the leaves in a pot of cold water and bring it to a rolling boil for 20 minutes.

This means you start timing the 20 minutes once the pot of water comes to a full rolling boil - correct?

GreatNorthernTroll on February 02, 2018:

I'm fascinated by the notion of anybody saying to themselves "I eat this stuff raw, and I got horribly sick... maybe if I boil it... NOPE, that didn't work... perhaps if I boil it TWICE, it won't make me sick..."

Who was this culinary genius that figured out how to expend so much effort for so little non-toxic return?

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on January 25, 2018:

Lizolivia: glad to be of help.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on January 25, 2018:

Nia: you're absolutely right. It's all about preparing it correctly.

I'm just trying to make sure people understand the dangers and how to prepare the plant safely.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on January 25, 2018:

Marian: it probably is a pokeweed, and you're probably right. It rarely gets cold enough in San Francisco to kill one.

Either way, you shouldn't attempt to consume a mature plant. You eat them when they're relatively young.

They can be used for ink and as accents for flower displays, but these are processes I don't know much about as how to do them safely.

Very interesting. This plant that already exists in the majority of the US seems to be expanding its territory.

Lizolivia from Central USA on January 23, 2018:

Thank you for explaining when to harvest the leaves and how to cook them for polk sallet; a well written article. The plants I hadn't pulled up become firmly rooted when left to grow and I have to dig them up in the back yard. Every spring and summer I question what the finer details are in order to consume poke salad, thanks.

Nia on January 19, 2018:

I'm not sure why people are making such a big deal about it being poisonous... so are potatoes (all green parts), tomatoes (everything but the fruit), apple seeds, the stone in stone fruits (peaches, plums, etc.), nutmeg, walnuts, acorns, and any other nut you only ever find roasted in the store, and all sorts of improperly prepared stuff...

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on January 11, 2018:

Marian: I got no advice. They're supposed to die. Are you sure it's a poke plant?

I definitely wouldn't eat it, but I thought they were seasonal. Kind of a strange place for one to be growing.

I just can't offer much advice, especially without looking at it. This is beyond my understanding of the plant.

Very interesting.

Marian Bradley on January 07, 2018:

I have a stunning poke plant growing in my back yard in San Francisco. I suspect seeded by mockingbirds. It started growing last Spring and has since been pruned back a great deal and is still 10 ft tall, supported by a bungie cord. Is it okay to harvest the new leaves springing forth constantly? I thought it was supposed to die back, but it it thriving. We compare it to the plant Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors".

Thank you!

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on December 22, 2017:

Kevin: fascinating comments. Sorry I've been so slow getting back.

I had another commenter mention pulling the leaves off and letting them regrow. I've never heard of actually cutting the whole plant and just leaving a few inches to regrow.

As for canning it, I've seen pictures of canned poke. I don't know if that's a real deal or kind of a novelty item.

Like you, I wish I knew more. Most the people I learned from are gone now.

Thanks so much for dropping by and bringing up some wonderful concepts.

Kevin Crouch on December 09, 2017:

I love pokeweed, learned how to prepare it from my grandmother. I have read way down the list here and haven’t read anyone talking about doing this: our harvest spots had several plants in them. We would cut the stalks off about six inches above the ground, to keep the plants from becoming to mature. It would regrow and produce beautiful new leaves, and would do this two or three times a season. Them would stop cutting them and let them mature out to seed. My grandparents are gone now and never ask them if you could can, cooked pokeweed? I would love to put some up to enjoy thru the winter months. Do you know anything about that?

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on November 07, 2017:

Natasha: all greens are good for that:-) Love the "Spring Cleaning" analogy.

Poisonous, yes, but so are a lot of things if they're cooked wrong. People get hung up on that word, but just prep it right and you'll be fine. The same is true of many foods.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Natasha G on November 01, 2017:

I grew up in NC and was raised by my grandmother who was born in 1927. I remember every year we would go searching for poke salad - she would call it "Spring Cleaning" time. I recall her saying it has to be washed good and cooked right or it will make you sick. I soooo didn’t know that it was poisonous (LOL). I guess that is why it was used for spring cleaning because shortly after eating it your system was going to experience a cleansing. I really miss those simple days and I loved the taste – she would mix hers with turnip greens and fatback.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on September 27, 2017:

Thomas: yes, I've read that. I know as much as you do. The roots and berries may be linked to cancer.

Just echoes my advice, stay away from the roots and berries. As for the leaves, I'll keep eating them until I know different. Even if it can be linked to cancer, I seriously doubt they're as carcinogenic as lunch meats like salami, for instance.

Thomas Middaugh on September 22, 2017:

I read that pokeweed was being tested for skin aliments and skin cancer. The root and the berries in particular. Do you know anything of this?

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on August 11, 2017:

That's how most people prepare it. I suggest wearing gloves and an extra parboil, especially for people new to the process.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mary Smith on August 09, 2017:

I am from South Arkansas, I grew up eating poke salad. ( that is what we call it!) I pick it every year and I don't wear gloves. I just pull the leaves off! Strip the leaf from the stem, wash good. Then I boil it once, drain it and cook it.

I use bacon grease to cook chopped onion and add garlic at the end. Then I add my poke, get it simmering and add two scrambled eggs! All my people eat it this way. The younger generation probably won't pick it! They love eating it!

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on August 07, 2017:

Andru: it can kill a cow, so what does that tell you?

Andru on August 04, 2017:

I stupidly boiled the root for a long ass time until the water evaporated and the root kind of hardened into this mushy potato like consistency. It was absolutely DELICIOUS and i didn't get sick.. I'm not recommending this to anyone but I'm wondering if maybe the data supporting the root being the most poisonous isn't 100% accurate

V.Saeed on July 27, 2017:

Thank you for your response. I do believe even though I have never eaten polk sallet. I would believe that the younger leaves without the red are safe. Mr. Waymon West in his comments said "my Dad was born in 1886, ate poke salad all his life and never heard of it being poison until about 1940....my family has been eating poke feeding it to anyone that may be around.....well over 100 years. No one has ever got the least bit sick......We never boiled it but once and then drain it....No one can show me a documented fact that anyone has died from eating once boiled poke salad." claiming "size and age of leaves makes no difference in the taste"....

The point is he expressed in his comment that his family boiled and drained the poke salad only once, but claimed "whoever wrote this article....." {my comment I'm assuming here}"...... has no idea what they are talking about....never boiled it but once. Never the slightest effect from it." and claims he is 82 and his father lived to 102. And he further says, "... No one can show me a documented fact that anyone has died from eating once boiled poke salad..." which I'm assuming from his comment "....We never boiled it but once then drain it..." was the usual procedure in this case.

In my last comment 4 weeks ago he did not seem to understand that the guy who tried to have me eat the raw polk sallet (poke salad) would have expected me to eat it raw with the red stems (not boiled and drained) at that time, and he had also told me as I've written in my comment, "....I confirmed he wanted me to wait until August when it could not grow anymore as the time to eat it, let the water evaporate down (instead of telling me to drain it), mix it with collard and turnips or turnips and collards and mustard greens ...., and cut it up in strips, season the water first before I put them in , and the flavor of the greens.......would overwhelm the polk sallet...."

The fact that none of the water would be drained and all the poison would be absorbed, would that make the guy more suspicious that had I planned to eat it this way undrained, that it seems, from your warnings Mr. Rankin, that it would have placed me at risk of death, because unlike Mr. Vest's family, it would have been boiled and not drained. Mr. Vest's family knew to drain it. When we cook regular greens you don't drain them at all. So his family over a period of 100 years had to know something about the poison or something wrong with it not knowing it was poison early on, but the fact that it was poison was not necessary to continue to mention or the thought died out over the 100 years because they always prepared it properly or got immune or no one got sick and died, considering posibly his family may not have had access to abundance of food and had to eat something, and it probably helped to cure some ailment that allowed them to live "forever"; But they did drain it as he say. and you say , Mr. Rankin, the bigger the leaves the more poisonous. Even though Mr. Vest says the age and size don't matter about the taste. I believe the purpose of what was suggested to me for the regular greens being placed in the pot with the undrained polk sallet (Poke salad) was to cover the taste of the poison that would have been evaporated into the greens and not drained out, and also so the innocent greens would take the fall of anything bad that may have happened. What do you think Mr. Rankin, someone was attempting potential foul play against me here?????

I do want to say, after the one who gave me the raw leaves found out I did not eat the raw polk sallet, he got rather nice and innocent all of a sudden vs. mental and emotional abuse, etc. that he'd been doing as close as a few days prior. He also encouraged me to eat some mushrooms that I noticed were growing under the polk sallet. There used to be a tree there. He claimed it was potobella mushrooms (that I do eat from store) because they were so big and said if it was brown it was good to eat, and orange or red was poisonous. He changed his attitude about that too after his kind period (because now I'm running for politics and i did attempt to remove him carefully from my life by written notice to him that he did not agree with) he decided to do a good deed and cut the grass and told me the mushrooms were so hard he had to kick it to break it up and made like he was not aware the mushrooms were not edible. It could have been more like a mushroom looking lichen rather than a mushroom.

Thank you

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on July 05, 2017:

Waymon: my Grandma just died, she was 93. Ate poke her whole life. My other Grandma was 96. Ate poke her whole life. Had an uncle lived to 97, ate poke his whole life. I've ate poke my whole life, and all things considered, am a pretty healthy individual.

Poke is poisonous. There is no doubt. Your family and mine have done so well with it because we've prepared it correctly. Most folks only parboil once. This article airs on the side of caution because it is intended for a general audience and I felt that indicating boiling 2 to 3 times was most prudent.

I do not eat poke later in the season. Some do. I think that's an unnecessary risk. Again, it's poison and gets more poisonous as the season passes. Though you may eat the leaves later in the season than I, I highly doubt you eat them from the plants that are 12 feet high and purple.

For the umpteenth time: if you eat raw or undercooked pork, you will likely get very ill. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen. If you eat rancid pork that is too old, you will definitely get sick. Pork is one of the tastiest meats in the world, but it still has to be prepared correctly.

And what's my point? The same is true of poke. I never once tried to say people shouldn't eat it. Just prepare it correctly. Cook the poison out, because there is poison in there!!

Harvested and prepared correctly, there is virtually no chance it will harm you. In fact, it can even be healthy. Just as I indicated in the article!!

As for the conspiracy theory that they started taking note that it was poison to help grocery stores, there may be some truth to that. Again, it was always poisonous, but more may have been made of this than necessary to boost marketing of commercial greens. That's entirely plausible but I don't believe it was done to the degree of concerted effort you're thinking it was.

In closing: pokeweed is poisonous. It can make you very sick and even kill you, just like most foods, but if you take the necessary precautions, it is healthy and tastes good.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on July 05, 2017:

V. Saeed: again, I can't say for sure how sick it would have made you. You certainly don't want to be cleaning your food with soap.

Waymon Vest on June 27, 2017:

Just posted a comment but forgot to say that my Dad was born in 1886, ate poke all his life and never heard of it being poison until about 1940, give or take a couple years. I remember seeing in newspapers that poke salad was poison around 1950, but no one ever clamed the articles. I am about 100% sure that grocery stores were putting it in the paper to get people to quit eating free poke and buy their greens. My family has been eating poke feeding it to anyone that may be around when we had some cooked for well over 100 years. No one has ever got the least bit sick and for many, it was the first time for them to eat it. We never boiled it but once and then drain it. The size and age of the leaves make NO difference in the taste. You just have to boil the old leaves longer to make them tender.

I know the ads showed up by 1950 that poke was poison and probably earlier. Boy did they work. 90% of people today think poke is poison. No one can show me a documented fact that anyone has died from eating once boiled poke salad.

Waymon Vest on June 27, 2017:

Whoever wrote this article has no idea what they are talking about. Dad lived to 102, I am 82 and still in good health. He ate poke salad all his life and I am still eating it. Never boiled it but once. Never the slightest effect from it.

V.Saeed on June 27, 2017:

"About 20 minutes ago you responded to my question", but longer period had lapsed Mr. Rankin because I forgot to update my comment.

I do want to inform you. I cant say I'm healthiest person alive but I eat healthy, a panavegetarian (eat some seafood, eggs, and dairy) , but am disabled from multiple injuries and have past history of stomach and irritable bowel, irregular heart beat (improved now) and sleep apnea, which had improved from CPAP therapy. Would I have survived eating those two leaves like lettuce?

I see Ron Pittman says "......avoid the berries and the red stalk unless it had been skinned...." In pulling off the leaves some of the skin of the stalk was pulled along with that as I mentioned.1/4" wide, 6" long string of it on one and a shorter string of it on the other. That I would have eaten too had I not known. I would've just rinsed it off and eaten both leaves like lettuce on my sandwich, if it were not for me reading this article ahead of time. Thank God. I think he pulled the two leaves off because I said I was going to make a salad out of the raw polk sallet leaves, and that way he controlled the outcome because he really wanted me to wait until August before I tried, and eating it in the sandwich would have made the sandwich a possible culprit to my illness if it came down to that and if he had to justify anything. The berries were growing at its full length, but they were all white, and the stalk was red and the plant itself was over 4 and 1/2 feet tall , but not as tall ans me at over 5'2" (5'2 and 3/4" to be exact), when the leaves were pulled, now at time of this comment , the berries are now green.

I bet polk sallet has a purpose on earth used in a positive way, but it can be used for other motives. That original plant that the man in my life introduced me to three years ago, I went back to area and found out someone other than him, who apparently knew about the plant had to have torn it down. It was growing wild where it was and should have still been there. Mysteriously though these plants popped up around in my yard and my relatives yard next door in the past year, but there was no other plant like it nearby. I wonder now if they were planted there purposely. when I wanted to remove the one in potato patch, the man in my life, discouraged me from doing so, and I confirmed he said if I cut the weeds out around it it will get wider and bigger (made it sound fascinating how big it gets), and I confirmed he wanted me to wait until August when it couldn't grow any more as the time to eat it, let the water evaporate down (instead of telling me to drain it), mix it with collard and turnips or collards and mustard greens (confrimed), and cut it up in strips, season the water first before I put them in, and the flavor of the greens (mustard and collards or mustard and turnips would overwhelm the polk sallet) He claimed to have eaten the leaves as large as he suggested I eat them, but he does have a history of lies.

Still waiting on your answers to my previous questions in previous comment.

V. Saeed on June 26, 2017:

Thank You. About 20 minutes ago you responded to my question:

What would have happened to me if I actually ate those two raw eleven inch (with red leaf stem included) leaves?

1). I’ll tell you. If I would have eaten those leaves (exact size of the leaves were 11 and 7/8 “ with about 6“ very thin strip of stalk (1/4” wide). The other leaf was about 2/8 “shorter with a shorter string aof stalk. I would have eaten also , without the knowledge I got from reading this article, I would have just rinsed them off and ate them with my sandwich. That would have been the only preparation. Now does your answer change clarifying this?

2). Second question:

If I went along with everything and waited until August (confirmed) when the berries darkened, and leaves got as big as greens, rinsed the leaves off with plain water and stacked it a book high like he said and mixed it with mustard (also mentioned collards and turnips) greens and possibly add fish when done since I don't eat meat, what would have happened if the water of the greens with the polk sallet were not drained at all after boiling (he said allow it the water to evaporate down while cooking) and I ate at least one serving of that of undrained polk sallet with greens?

When it comes to greens I usually eat three servings at one time equivalent to minimum of two bowlfulls. up to four bowlfulls in a day if i eat twice (he told me that the greens would overwhelm the taste of the polk sallet).

3). My third question:

He actually explained a way to rinse the leaves to wash it with dish-washing liquid and drain that completely off with water to rinse the leaves, but I thought that was unsafe, so I would not have followed the idea of rinsing with the dish-washing liquid--but I suggested he show me how to prepare once the time came that he suggested I harvest it in August when the berries would have darkened, but does that add to its toxicity to wash with dish-washing liquid?

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 26, 2017:

Melvin: One of these days I want to try it that way but with some wild onions.

All the poke in my back yard is turning purple at the stalk and growing berries, so I'm probably done harvesting for the year:-/

Thanks for sharing.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 26, 2017:

Ron: very interesting. We never ate the stalks. If I tried it this way, I'd probably parboil once before then fry, but I'd want to see somebody do it first to make sure it's relatively safe.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 26, 2017:

V. Saeed: this man was most likely trying to do a really mean and possibly dangerous prank.

If there was purple on the stem, then this poke was past harvesting time and more toxic than a younger plant.

I'm conjecturing on the possible side effects if you had ate it, but assuming it was past harvest, not prepared properly and also assuming your a healthy adult and not pregnant, the effect would be anywhere from slight nausea to bloody diarrhea and a trip to the hospital.

Melvin on June 25, 2017:

I had poke sallet and eggs for dinner it was great.

Ron Pittman on June 24, 2017:

I grew up in Southern Kentucky and we always ate the stalks. I have had young sprouts and the leaves cooked but mostly just the stalks. We would take the stalks and strip the outer layer especially if they have turned red. We would chop the stripped stalks into small chunks and then batter them in cornmeal and fry them like you would fry yellow squash or green tomatoes. Very tasty. I’ve never heard of anyone getting sick. We were warned by the older women to avoid the berries and the red stalk unless it had been skinned. We never messed with the roots.

V. Saeed on June 24, 2017:

The man in my life handed me two raw leaves of polk sallet from a 4 and 1/2 foot or larger plant over a week ago to eat with my tortilla bread sandwich (little cheese and bit of salmon). I'm 5'2"; the plant wasn't quite as tall as me. It had some white immature berries on it. The body and leaf stems were already red. The leaves were maybe 9 inches with 2" of attached stem. Approx. 3 years before, he had introduced me to the plant to eat and I always had interest, came real close to eating it and the berries out of curiosity from the encouragement. One day i collected the berries and I thought the berries looked too strange and left them for the animals to eat.

One day a plant just popped up growing in my yard's makeshift potato patch. This man wanted me to keep it and wait until the plant got more mature in July or August before I tried foot long leaves stacked a book high mixed in some mustard greens and a meat (its berries would have been matured by then). He knew this plant’s stem grew to 6” thick and wide as bushes, and I was given NO expression of draining after boiling NOR that it was poisonous at all, but he did tell me after my attempt, not to eat the berries that it was for the birds, and he claimed he ate it cooked before.

The moment he gave me the raw leaves, I took one whiff of the stem and my head drew back from the stench. Then and there, I asked him if he had eaten the leaves raw before and he said, clearly, "Yes", but immediately left before witnessing me eat the leaves.

I never ate the two leaves and since spoke nothing of polk sallet until he brought up. He did not show up till next evening when I was singing to myself. He said, "I like your attitude" and made excuse to leave when I said "I was just stressing", never staying past few minutes for several days then finally inquiring whether I ate the leaves. I made excuse that I did not eat it because of the stench (but it was really because of your article here was when I discovered the plant was poisonous). My mom warned me not to eat it and told me something was wrong with plant, stressing why I would trust the man that the plant was edible. Her refusal to believe it was edible made me do internet search. I don't believe he ate it raw because when he found out I had not eaten the raw leaves he gave me, then, in a non-conspicuous way, I suggested that he eat it along with some food he had. He refused and denied he ever told me he ate it raw. He does not know I found out it was poisonous.

My question: What would have happened to me if I actually ate those two raw eleven inch (with red leaf stem included) leaves?

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 15, 2017:

Jennifer: I always enjoy hearing from fellow poke salet lovers.

The recipe I give here is a basic one, but as you expressed, the permutations of the things that can be done with pokeweed are seemingly endless.

Jennifer Alexander on June 15, 2017:

I am from Ohio but raised in texas. We use to pick this every week and though preparing it was a process, it sure was and still is worth it. Now I must say along with the bacon and bacon fat, add some diced up green onions in it. So dang delicious. Poke Sallet is what we always knew it by. Pecans, berries, poke weed,mustang grapes and wild plums were very common picking for us kids growing up. Berries, grapes & plums for canning. I live in NY now and miss these things. I do however go picking all this when I visit and still do a lot of canning. Thanks for sharing.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 07, 2017:

Doug: I grew up on a farm. I worked the earth. I shoveled you know what. I've had my hands up inside animals before. The point is I'm not a squeamish person. I'm not an overly dramatic person. I value education, not fear.

I want people to try pokeweed if it's in their wheelhouse, and to that end, this article has been remarkably successful. I haven't seen that anyone has been scared away from the dish from what I've said, just properly educated.

I just can't understand why we're arguing here? Pokeweed is poisoness. People should be careful handling it. That's all that's being said. It's a fluff piece. I'd understand if we were arguing about politics, because that's something people argue about.

In addition, It's interesting that pokeweed is related to nightshade. That may not be why it's poisoness. I understand that. Just because two things are related doesn't mean they have the same attributes, but there is a good chance there is a link between the toxicity of the two. I haven't saw anything conclusive either way.

If you are healthy and eat the leaves of a pokeweed or the berries raw in any significant quantity, you'll get sick after. You may even have bloody diarrhea. If you're healthy and eat enough of the root, you'll die. If your immunity is compromised, any of it can kill you.

That's not a reason not to eat it. Just use caution.

Here's some food for thought: An average cow is 1,500 lbs give or take and has 4 stomachs. It is specifically engineered to digest plants. There is a Penn State study that indicates, though rare, some cow deaths have been caused by the pokeweed root.

Take care if you're working with this plant! It's not hard to prepare pokeweed correctly, and if you do, the chance of harm is almost zero, but you need to know how to do things right and be careful.

Doug on June 06, 2017:

Pokeweed is NOT closely related to Nightshade. And if it was, so what? The nightshade genus includes commonly consumed tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. Just another unnecessary scare tactic in this article.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 06, 2017:

Doug: I added it because it is related to nightshade and pokeweed has killed children, elderly, and the immunaly repressed over the years. It has also made the occasional healthy person extremely ill and maybe even worse.

It is a fact that like meat pokeweed can kill you if prepared incorrectly. I wouldn't add such warnings in say a recipe for poultry, because it is common knowledge that poultry can kill you if the factors are right and it's prepared wrong.

There is a difference between education and fear-mongering. I want people to enjoy poke. This isn't an anti-poke article. It is promotional. I love this stuff, but I'm not going to lie to people and tell them you don't have to take precautions when preparing it. That would be irresponsible.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on June 06, 2017:

Deborah: when I was a boy poke salet was a big tradition. Seems like some folks are forgetting about it. Glad to hear you're carrying on the tradition:-)

Doug on June 05, 2017:

Pokeweed and Nightshade are only very very distantly related. Pokeweed is in order Caryophyllales while nightshade is in order Solanales. Family and genus are (of course) different too. Tomatoes, Potatoes, and Eggplant are in the same genus (Solanum) as Nightshades.

Pokeweed and Nightshade are both Eudicots which include members of the sunflower family such as the common dandelion, the forget-me-not, cabbage and other members of its family, apple, buttercup, maple, and macadamia. Most trees (with the exception of Magnolias and Ginkgo) are Eudicots.

I don't even understand why "nightshade" was even mentioned in this article. Maybe just to add to the scare factor.

Deborah on June 05, 2017:

I have eaten Polk sallett all my life. Still love it. Had a mess of it yesterday with pinto beans, kraut/ winners, corn bread yum to the yum.