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Poke Sallet (Poke Salad): How to Handle, Harvest, and Prepare the Poisonous Pokeweed

Updated on June 21, 2016
Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin is a native of the south who takes an interest in sharing some of this region's more charming traditions.

Poke Sallet with Fried Potatoes and Salt Pork
Poke Sallet with Fried Potatoes and Salt Pork | Source

The pokeweed can be found throughout the majority of the Continental United States, but is far more prevalent in the central to eastern states of the south. It is a poisonous weed, related to night shade, but if prepared for consumption correctly, it is actually considered a delicacy by many Southerners. In fact, in its cooked form, the pokeweed is so popular that many southern states hold yearly festivals in the early spring to commemorate it.

The cooked version of this weed is properly referred to as poke sallet, but many are not in tune with the proper pronunciation, so it is not uncommon to hear it referred to as poke salad. The word sallet traces back to Middle English 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 is important because for reasons that will be made clear to you later, the pokeweed should never be eaten raw.

In this article we will be giving an overview of the dangers of the pokeweed, how and when one might harvest it in relative safety, and then we will detail a popular way to prepare poke sallet in the South.

About the Poisoness Plant Pokeweed

First we will start by discussing all the ways in which the 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 poke sallet 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 poke sallet is entirely up to you. It isn’t illegal, and if you are the sort of person who can follow directions and knows how not to cross-contaminate, this recipe might be for you.

As the Pokeweed Develops Bright Colors and Berries its Toxicity Increases..
As the Pokeweed Develops Bright Colors and Berries its Toxicity Increases.. | Source

Now back to the dangerous nature of the pokeweed. Poison can be found throughout this plant, and only birds are immune to the effects. When this plant first sprouts in the early spring, it is at its least poisonous. Throughout the maturation of the pokeweed, the plant's toxicity increases.

The most toxic part of the pokeweed is the root system. The roots of the pokeweed are by far the most potentially lethal part of the pokeweed. Next in toxicity are the leaves and stems. At some point the pokeweed will fruit. The fully ripened fruit of the pokeweed are quite toxic.

When it reaches maturity, the pokeweed can grow to over ten feet in height. It goes from a green to a beautiful purple color. Its ripened berries are usually a shiny, eye-catching black. Attracted by their beauty, many a child has became ill or died from the ingestion of these berries. Because they have harmed so many children over the years, some have suggested eliminating the pokeweed altogether.

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.


Knowing the Risk, Would You Give Poke Sallet a Try?

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Possible Effects of Pokeweed Poisoning

The consequences of pokeweed poisoning are varied by the part of the plant ingested, the maturation of the plant, the amount of the plant ingested, and the age of the individual affected. As with most anything that is harmful, the extremely young and old are more likely to have the most pronounced ill effects.

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 response in as little as 2 hours after ingestion. Other signs of poisoning include a burning sensation in the mouth and blood in vomit and diarrhea of the effected.

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

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 pokeweed can be carcinogenic. Because of this, one should always use gloves when handling pokeweed.

If you are pregnant, pokeweed 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.

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, and though our mature bodies may handle them with ease, a fetus will not.

Are you properly terrified yet, or do you just think us Southerners are crazy?

Harvesting Pokeweed

With all the awful things that can happen, I still contend that if you put forth the effort to prepare poke sallet properly, you will be ok. The proper harvesting of the pokeweed is as important as any other step in safely preparing poke sallet.

When the Pokeweed is Ripe for Harvesting, it is Hard to Distiguish from Other Weeds.
When the Pokeweed is Ripe for Harvesting, it is Hard to Distiguish from Other Weeds. | Source

Finding Pokeweed

The first step in harvesting poke sallet is finding the stuff, and though it grows in all manner of places, this can be quite a hurdle for the newly initiated. Despite that the pokeweed is very distinctive looking in maturity, to a point that it is almost unmistakable with any other plant, you harvest pokeweed 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 there lowest. At this point in development of the pokeweed, it is completely green and looks like any other large leaved green plant.

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.

Pokeweed likes to grow in any spot that has been disturbed, either naturally or otherwise. For example, you can expect pokeweed 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 the pokeweed.

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 pokeweed grows in abundance.

Basically any waste place where weeds grow is a good place to look for pokeweed, 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.

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 as far as using your sniffer is concerned.

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. The only fairly failsafe way for the layman to do this is to 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 pokeweeds.

Again, spotting the highly poisonous, mature pokeweed is easy. They are 6 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 pokeweeds 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 to making poke sallet, but if you have a little help, it really isn’t that difficult.

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. | Source

Safely Picking Pokeweed

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. Of even more importance is having a cutting tool and cutting 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 pokeweed home and it is ready to cook, you will remove the edible leaves from the pokeweed’s 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 of pokeweed will probably only yield about 2 large servings of poke sallet.

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

However You Choose to Prepare Pokeweed, the Boil/Rinse Process is Essential.
However You Choose to Prepare Pokeweed, the Boil/Rinse Process is Essential. | Source

Cook Time

  • Prep time: 2 hours
  • Cook time: 3 hours
  • Ready in: 5 hours
  • Yields: Pick a lot. The pokeweed reduces down drastically.


  • Pokeweed Leaves
  • Bacon Fat, Enough to Coat Pan
  • Crushed Bacon, to Taste
  • Salt & Pepper, to Taste

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

Nutritional Information

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 4 oz
Calories 180
Calories from Fat108
% Daily Value *
Fat 12 g18%
Saturated fat 4 g20%
Unsaturated fat 8 g
Carbohydrates 3 g1%
Sugar 2 g
Fiber 2 g8%
Protein 6 g12%
Cholesterol 9 mg3%
Sodium 250 mg10%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

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.

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, poke sallet does not 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.

To your right is a summary of steps for preparing poke sallet, but if this is your first experience with the 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 fine points.

First, I recommend wearing gloves at the beginning of the cooking process. You want to start by removing all the leaves from the pokeweed plant. This is the part you will eat. Dispose of the rest of the plant in a safe manner.

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 pokeweed leaves with cool water.

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.

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.

If you are very precautious, 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 that have prepared poke sallet throughout their live have never used the precaution of gloves at all with no perceivable consequence.

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.

After you have properly detoxified the pokeweed 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.

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.

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. | Source


The majority of information in this hub regarding the toxicity of the Pokeweed was garnered from Wikipedia. The rest of the information herein was gathered over the course of my lifetime in Oklahoma.


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I was going to say I've never heard of poke salad, but then I remembered an old song from the 60s...Poke Salad Annie was in it.....well thanks for clearing that mystery up, Larry. I always wondered what the heck poke salad was.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oops, I meant poke sallet duh!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Billy: thanks so much for dropping by. A lot of people call it salad. It's not a big deal. I just thought it was interesting that the more formal term is sallet.

      I'm glad to clear some things up for you. It really is a fascinating plant.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 22 months ago

      It's a good hub, Larry, but aren't you being overly cautious? I've eaten poke sallet all my life, and maybe my family and I are immune to such poisons. We picked the young tender leaves from the poke and when it got older, the smaller leaves from the older plant because the big leaves were tough. These were washed, never wearing gloves while handling, and then they were put through a first boiling, 10 to 15 minutes to take out the strong flavor, grandma said. That water was poured off and new water was added along with fat back, salt and pepper. It was cooked until tender and served. My favorite way to eat it was along with pinto beans and cornbread. Anyway, that was how we ate it in the Ozarks. Have you ever heard of pot likker? That is the juice left over in the pot from boiling the greens, and many people like to sop it with the cornbread. You won't get pot likker from frying it. I never heard of frying it until some fancy chefs on TV said that is how it should be cooked.

      My grandma always cautioned me that the berries were poisonous and never to eat them. She never said anything about the plant or older leaves being poisonous. She also showed me how to make ink, and we kids used to experiment with ink and feather quill pens.

      My hillside backyard that can't be mowed is full of poke, which I share with my son and neighbors. We still find this good eatin'. Voted up and interesting.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Miz Bejabbers: I certainly didn't intend to come off callous:) I love poke sallet. I was just giving suggestions on how it might more safely be eaten.

      My family has always panfried it in grease for a couple of minutes; you certainly don't have to. It is actually far healthier if you don't.

      Pokeweed does get more poisonous with age, but different people have different ideas about what is safe, the only thing I would stress no matter what is for pregnant women to stay away from it.

      Great comments and I am happy to have found someone else familiar with the dish to give feedback.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 22 months ago from San Diego California

      I congratulate you on expanding your considerable literary talents into the culinary relm, which I know is spelled realm but I am trying to stay in the spirit of the thing, practicing up if you will for a family reunion in about a month where there will be plenty of Okies in attendance but probably no poke sallet.

      If this wasn't such a highly serious subject I would suggest something of the satirical in your approach, sort of like a piece I read by Swift where he was advocating the consumption of Irish babies. But Mr. Swift did not include any detailed nutritional information, whereas you did, so this dispels any doubts I have in your sincerity.

      When you get right down to it, what's a little bloody stools and vomit when you are among family and friends? I found this highly educational, and is by far the greatest recipe hub I have ever read. Great work!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 22 months ago

      Larry, I hope I didn't sound belligerent. I didn't intend to but I was afraid you might scare some people off. I will have to try it fried. I discovered some recipes for some other things fried like mustard greens or cabbage that I really liked, so I'm willing to try frying it.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Mel: it's always fun to hear your response to things. I'm sure if you're around some Okies someone will be able to tell you about poke sallet.

      It is comical that people will go to such lengths to make something poisonous edible. That said, I enjoy poke sallet, and it is reasonably safe to eat if it is prepared correctly. Think of it as the fugu fish of the south:-)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Miz Bejabbers: I didn't mean to indicate belligerence. I have the same concerns as you. I don't want to scare people away from this delicious dish, but I want people to understand that if you don't approach this food correctly, there are genuine risks.

      The frying step of the recipe is not part of the detoxification process. That is what the rinsing/boiling process is for. I have had poke sallet just boiled before. It is wonderful. I just including the recipe where you fry at the end because it is more traditional within my family.

      As for arguing about aspects of this topic, don't worry about it. I appreciate your opinions because I know you are knowledgeable about this topic, and arguing is half the fun:-)

      Ps: I have never heard of pot likker. Personally I don't know if I'd give it a try or not.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting and informative hub Larry. I don't know if we have pokeweed here in Australia or if it may be called something different. We do have quite a few plants in the nightshade family but then potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant are all in that as well. It sounds as though it is prepared similar to silver beet or spinach that have a lot of oxalic acid in the leaves and stems. Voted up.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Jonah: as far as I know pokeweed is only found in North America.

      I spent a lot of time talking about the dangers, but really, if you are just somewhat knowledgeable and careful about its preparation, it is fairly safe to eat.

      So glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks so much for the comments.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 22 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I have never heard or read about pokeweed, but the leaves do look a lot like spinach leaves that we grow. This was a very interesting and informative post and from now on I make sure I also cook our spinach leaves just to make sure.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Nadine: raw spinach is good for you. It is just the pokeweed that has to be boiled clean to harness its nutrition.

      Thanks so much for dropping by, Nadine.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 22 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Thank you for this informative hub, it really did interest me because my friend in Blue Ridge, Georgia made me poke sallet, and now I know where she got it from. Thank you Stella

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Lady Guitar Picker: she definitely didn't get it from the store, lol.

      Hope you enjoyed it. Poke sallet is one of my favorites.

      Thanks much for dropping by.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 22 months ago from USA

      I've grown up hearing about it here and there but never had it mysel and I have been looking at me he plants for years apparently, unaware of what they were. A truly unique hub, Larry! Voted up and more.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      FlourishAnyway: so glad you enjoyed it. if you get the gumption, you should give them a try sometime.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting hub, Larry. It was also very educational. I loved learning about pokeweed!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Alicia: I was hoping you'd read this, because I know you have such an interest in science and plant life.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 22 months ago from Shimla, India

      That is an interesting recipe and an interesting post .Voted up :)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Akriti Mattu: I am so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for dropping by.

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 22 months ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Interesting hub. I always thought it was "polk salad", because of the way it's spelled in the Tony Joe White song "Polk Salad Annie". I live in New England, so unfortunately I don't think I'll be able to try this any time soon.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Doc: it is commonly referred to as salad, and some of the festivals call it salad, but most folks I know call it sallet, and it is the more appropriate term.

      Thanks so much for dropping by.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 22 months ago

      Larry, I can’t remember is I ever ate Poke Sallet or not, it looks like turnip greens. But one way or the other I don’t think I would try this. Seems like a lot of trouble making something potentially dangerous.

      I too have heard the song that billybuc referenced. I loved hearing Elvis sing it. The song would be a good addition to this hub, just a thought.

      Have a blessed day.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Shyron: Thanks so much for dropping by. Some folks are adventurous eaters, some aren't. I will say this, yes things can go wrong, but it really is fairly safe to eat if you prepare it right.

    • the rawspirit profile image

      Robert Morgan 21 months ago from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Scottsdale AZ

      Ok... I am a wild plant eater, but have yet to try this amazing plant. It's now on my list to try this summer. Thanks

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Rawspirit: glad to hear you're interested.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 21 months ago from Citra Florida

      I wish I could get rid of this stuff. It has turned into a noxious weed popping up in the woods, veg garden and flower garden. Never tried to eat it tho', guess I'm just chicken

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Chefsref: if you do, be careful. I do enjoy it, but it's a bit late in the season.

      Thanks for dropping by.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 21 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Well this is very interesting, and I never knew of the process of poke weed salad! Someone got really creative to turn something toxic or poisonous into a salad! Its kind of cool! Thank you for sharing this. I can recall seeing it many times, thanks to your photos.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Ocean Sunsets: the one thing I didn't go over is history. I'm sure this recipe came about due to necessity. Poor people who had to eat. I'm also sure there was a lot of illness and possibly some death before people succeeded in making a tastey dish.

      Thank for the comments.

    • Mary Ann Bittle profile image

      Mary Ann Bittle 21 months ago

      I have poke coming up constantly in our newly formed west-side garden area (we have several smaller gardens due to placement of coops, the house, trees, etc), everything from a few inches tall to several feet tall. My mother has often mentioned this, but she doesn't like it (at ALL, I must say!), so has never shown me how to make it.

      Mom (an 82 year old font of information) swears that it tastes like cooked spinach, which she detests (so do I, but that's not the point), but hubby loves cooked spinach, so I went hunting for instructions. Wandering online, this is the first recipe I've run across where it's fried, by the way. *grins* The way poke keeps popping up in this new garden area, I may have enough to fix it both ways!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Mary: it tastes very much like cooked spinach, so if you don't like it, it may not be worth the effort.

      I enjoy poke sallet, but it may be too late in the season to safely prepare it. If it is sprouting berries or if any of it has started taking on bright colors besides green, I'd advise waiting until next year's crop to prepare a batch.

      Thanks for stopping by. Loved the comments.

    • Mary Ann Bittle profile image

      Mary Ann Bittle 21 months ago


      Mom isn't a font, but a fount...

      (I hate typos!)

      I'll only be fixing it for hubby, not for myself. *grins* He puts up with stuff I like that he doesn't, I can handle fixing something for him I won't eat.

      There's still brand new plants popping up all over the place here, so those aren't nearly old enough to worry about. :-)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Fascinating! I never heard of poke wallet, either, and I am simply thrilled to have discovered this. Pokeweed is also in the northeast, but I never bothered to seek it out in its young form. Another problem food is fiddleheads, which, if not prepared properly, will have the same effects. Fiddleheads are a northeastern delicacy, and grow into ferns.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

      Avian Novice: since you've spent time in Oklahoma, I figured you would have heard of Poke Sallet by now:-)

      I haven't heard of fiddlehead, either, though. Sounds very interesting.

      Thanks so much for dropping by and the follow.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 20 months ago from Washington KS

      We lived in the Kentucky mountains, where poke sallet is a frequent part of meals. My mother in law showed me how to pick and cook it. We handled only the leaves, no gloves, boiled it once and rinsed it before frying. It tastes great!! Loved your hub. Well done.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

      Lolly: thanks so much for dropping by. Most folks don't wear gloves. In my experience, about half boil once and the other half twice. A small percentage boil 3 times.

      I gave the super-precautionary method here, because It's geared for an audience that may not have experience with pokeweed.

    • profile image

      mart 18 months ago

      Like many here I have eaten poke all my life. Living in Texas its something you learn early. And yes I fry it as well and toss two or three eggs in with it a few minutes before its done and scramble those with it till eggs are set. Sound strange but it is excellent. I have eaten it at all stages of growth except when the berries are in rapid growth. The problem with eating poke when it gets big/old is because the taste is stronger and the leaves are tougher.

      I normally just do one quick boil of about 5 to 10 minutes but I do not rinse. I either cook it for a meal or I drain and freeze for winter. If you boil too much it has little taste .

      We have it growing in several places here at our farm. It will come back year after year but ours has not spread. Mocking birds love the berries so we let most of ours go to seed for them. The seed will come up after going through their digestive tract but try as I may, I cannot get them to grow by planting the seed myself. Strange thing about poke is that the old established plants come back year after year. The plants along the fence that come up as a result of the mockingbirds are only here for that year and possibly the next and then they are gone.

      To keep poke at a good stage for eating is simple, just cut it back at about 2 to 3 feet tall. It will put out new sprouts that are just as good as the first ones.

      The stalks when young can be peeled,cut and fried like okra. They can also be steamed like asparagus when small.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 18 months ago from Oklahoma

      Mary: great comments. I've never tried it with eggs. Sounds good.

      I had read where birds are immune to the toxins. Very interesting.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 16 months ago

      Very interesting and educational! Pokeweed grows in my yard and I never knew it was poisonous. As a child during the war we use to eat many wild weeds. I looked up edible poisonous weeds and realized I've had many of them in places I've lived. When I lived in Missouri I had to educate myself on poisonous weeds in the fields where my horses ate.

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      Larry Rankin 16 months ago from Oklahoma

      Delia: thanks for the thoughtful response.

      I helped raise cattle growing up, and yes, when you have livestock it is important to know what is dangerous.

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      Sally Branche 11 months ago from Only In Texas!

      Oh, I love this! I used to pick poke by the side of the road and prepare it as greens. I haven't seen it in years, though. Lately, I've been using Dollar Weed, which grows in abundance in my back yard. You can use it like spinach in cooked and raw dishes. It's delicious and it's a super-food! :D

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      Howard 6 months ago

      I was brought up at the foothills of the Appalachian Mtns. My cousins and I would visit Aunt Clara every summer back in the late 40's and early 50's. We'd run through the pasture down to the clear little creek. We'd put an old board up between two trees and make mud pies. They were the same color as pumpkin pies as they took on the color of the mud. They were kind of gritty when we tasted them. At noon, we'd go back to Aunt Clara's for lunch. She always served us Sassafras Tea. I remember that great taste. There was nothing else like it. It was wonderful.

      Too bad it now gets such a bad rap. That was many years ago and I'm not dead yet. Anyone care to imagine and share a sip with me ?

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      Valene 6 months ago from Missouri

      So what is the toxic compound in the plant? I'd be interested to know what chemical components in this plant give it its toxicity.

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      Larry Rankin 6 months ago from Oklahoma

      Howard: I've heard of sassafras tea, but have never had any. I know it has a chemical that is associated with liver cancer.

      Interesting comments.

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      Larry Rankin 6 months ago from Oklahoma

      Valence: interestingly enough, they believe it is several compounds and to my knowledge they haven't been positively identified yet.

      I know the pokeweed is related to nightshade and that there is some evidence the poisons are alkaloid in nature.

      Sorry I couldn't be more helpful and thanks for dropping by.

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      Mark 5 months ago

      Great fried up with some egg scrambled in it :) have not had it in many years here in spring I am going to do it for nostalgia from childhood!

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      Larry Rankin 5 months ago from Oklahoma

      Mark: yes, a lot of folks like it with eggs.

      Thanks so much for dropping by.

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      TheOneRaven 3 months ago

      Larry, I've never had Poke Sallet before. I live in Kansas so I don't think that I will be able to find any here. Do you know how I can get some? My mother hated any type of greens, except Spinach. I, however, absolutely love Mustard, Turnip, and Collard greens. Especially when the turnips are included with the greens. I may have been born in Ohio, raised for 6 years in Georgia and the rest in what I call my home state of Tennessee, but a southerner when it comes to home cooked meals. Yum Yum!!

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      Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

      I was under the impression it grew in most of Kansas, but I could be wrong. As far as having your own, that's the catch 22. You either have to do some yourself or have a friend cook it. The FDA isn't going to let you have it in restaurants, most likely, because of the potential toxicity.

      Thanks so much for dropping by. I wish I had a better answer.

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      Randall Shipley 4 weeks ago

      I'm from the great State of East Tennessee (originally called Franklin). I have ate poke on and off my whole life, never use rubber gloves to pick it but I do recommend it for beginners ! If you boil for 30 minutes on the first two steps, during the third cook, you can add a hambone (lightly trimmed) or fat back with minimal water there will be no need to strain ! Enjoy !

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      Larry Rankin 4 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Randall: sounds great. There are a ton of variations on this dish.

      I'll say this. My recipe is very cautious, probably overly. I realize that real poke eaters usually aren't so cautious, including myself. But since this is for a large population of first timers, I don't want anyone getting sick on my account. This is a recipe that, if followed properly, I can feel confident there is no chance of poisoning.

      The catch 22 is I stress all this caution, but I also don't want people to be scared to try it, lol.

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      Larry Rankin 5 days ago from Oklahoma

      Greg: I'm not trying to scare anyone away from the stuff. I eat it myself. BUT IT IS POISONOUS!!! This isn't some government plot to keep us away from free food. This is a known quantity. Pokeweed is poisonous and should be respected as such when prepared for food.

      My recipe errs on the side of caution. I've admitted that multiple times, but pokeweed is poisonous and potentially lethal! People have died, especially when handling the mature stuff, and especially the immunally suppressed.

      If you eat a mess of young poke leaves unprepared and you are a healthy person you are still eating poison and you will have digestive issues proportionate to the amount you ate. You probably won't wind up in the hospital unless it is a precautionary measure.

      If you are ingesting the mature plants, the berries, or the root system during any part of the growth season, you will get very sick or can even die.

      No I can't say whether or not a single berry or if drawing with the ink, etc. will kill you, but it is poison and the right amount will kill you.

      JUST RESPECT IT AS THE POISON IT IS!!! Like I said before, meats like pork are essentially poisonous as well with the microorganisms they carry. That's why we handle it in a specific manner when preparing it. Same thing with poke. Just a few simple rules. Don't be stupid with it.

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      Barbara Holladay 4 days ago

      My beloved Paternal grandmother, a Claiborn, was from Missouri, then Kansas and I remember her talking about Polk Sallet but I don't remember her fixing any of it for us. She died when I was young.

      I live in North Texas now and have it in my yard, apparently planted by The birds so I might try fixing it next spring. I love fried spinach with eggs mixed in, it was an old Weight Watchers recipe in the 70's in New Orleans where I lived then.

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      Larry Rankin 4 days ago from Oklahoma

      Barbara: thanks for dropping by. The birds are immune to the poison, so they probably did have a part in planting it in your yard:-)

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