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How to Identify, Harvest, and Prepare Pokeweed and Poke Sallet

Updated on May 22, 2017
Larry Rankin profile image

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

A young pokeweed is what you'll want to keep an eye out for. The older this plant gets, the more poisonous it gets.
A young pokeweed is what you'll want to keep an eye out for. The older this plant gets, the more poisonous it gets. | Source

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 Southerners. In fact, in its cooked form, 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." 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." For us Southerners, the word "sallet" 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, pokeweed should never be eaten raw.

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

Know That 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.

Here is an example of pokeweed berries. They might look tasty, but they're toxic. Don't eat them.
Here is an example of pokeweed berries. They might look tasty, but they're toxic. Don't eat them. | Source

Which Part Is Poisonous?

The short answer: all of it.

The long answer: Poison can be found throughout this plant, and only birds are immune to the effects. Let's look at the different life-stages and parts of the plant.

The Life Stages

  • A baby plant. 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.
  • A fruiting plant. At some point, the weed will fruit. The fully ripened fruit of the pokeweed are 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 or die from ingesting these berries. Because they have harmed so many children over the years, some have suggested trying to eliminate pokeweed altogether.

Plant Parts

  • Roots. The most toxic part of the pokeweed is the root system. The roots of the weed are by far the most potentially lethal part of it.
  • Leave and stems. You guessed it: the leaves and stems are also toxic.
  • The fruit. Like I mentioned about, you definitely don't want to eat the fruit, as it too is toxic. Its ripened berries are usually a shiny, eye-catching black.

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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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 age of the individual affected.

Are certain groups more at risk?

As with most anything that is harmful, the extremely young and old are more likely to have the most pronounced ill effects. 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.

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 effected.

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, and though our mature bodies may handle them with ease.

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

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

This Weed Is Ready to Eat!


Step One: Find the Plant

With all the awful things that can happen, I still contend that if you put forth the effort to prepare this dish properly, you will be ok. Proper pokeweed harvesting is as important as any other step in safely preparing this 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 there lowest. Remember to weat gloves! At this point in the plant's development, it is completely green and looks like many other large-leafed 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. 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-kept. 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 as far as using your sniffer is concerned. Even Google doesn't have a clear answer for what this plant might smell like.

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 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 plants appropriate for harvest immediately, 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. | Source

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 salad.

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 | 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

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 the Southern-style way 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. | Source

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.

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


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years 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 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oops, I meant poke sallet duh!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years ago from Shimla, India

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

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

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

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years ago from Texas

      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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Rawspirit: glad to hear you're interested.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 2 years 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 2 years 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 24 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 24 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 24 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 24 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 24 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 23 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 23 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 23 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 23 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.

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      mart 21 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.

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      Larry Rankin 21 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.

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      Delia 19 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 19 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 14 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 9 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 9 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 9 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 9 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 8 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 8 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 6 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 6 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 3 months 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 3 months 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 3 months 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 3 months 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 3 months 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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      Britney 2 months ago

      Mmm just got done eating some! Love it! Only difference is I put onions and egg in mine. I've never used gloves and I've been fine. I don't harvest the whole plant just pinch the top bunch of leaves off to allow the plant to continue growing and reproduce but I catch them while there around three foot tall. It's great to know more about it I've always know it was poisonous just never how exactly haha thank you

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      Larry Rankin 2 months ago from Oklahoma

      Britney: like most greens, there's a ton of recipes for it. I've heard of it with eggs and onions. Sounds delicious:-)

      Thanks for dropping by.

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      Larry Rankin 7 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Kim: thanks for dropping by. You know I cover this plant as far as growth in the US. I'm curious if it grows in other countries.

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      Amy. Caldwell 7 weeks ago

      I boil then place in cast iron skillet,I place 2 to 3 eggs along with other ingredients, alot of the deep south cooks it this way, I do not recommend anyone try to pick the salad enless they have grew up with poke salad,and know about it alot of new people try it and end up getting sick and will put poke salad down,but if cooked the right way poke salad can be a blessing

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      Larry Rankin 7 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Amy: it's definitely good stuff. It's always a good idea to have somebody with experience help you if you haven't handled poke before.

      Thanks so much for dropping by.

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      deb guinn 6 weeks ago

      I just fix some this week. I boiled it down once. didn't want to boil away all the nutrients. drained it well in collander. carmelized onion in bacon grease, then cooked the polk a few minutes with the onion and then spinkled with white wine vinegar before serving. I've never poisoned anyone. although several people have commented on what an excelent bowel movement they had the next day.

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      Larry Rankin 6 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Deb: like any green, it's awesome for keeping regular:-)

      Love the way you made it classy with the wine. There are endless possibilities with this dish. Most people I know only parboil once, but I'm giving the super safe recipe here.

      Thanks for stopping by. I love hearing variants on this dish.

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      TrishSweet 6 weeks ago

      I've only had poke cooked with eggs, I liked it. Does it grow in Fl? I lived in Tn. at the time.

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      Larry Rankin 6 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Trish: it should be around in Florida, but I couldn't tell you if it's prevalent.

      About the only places it doesn't grow at all in the Continental US are the Northern mountains and plains. I've even heard it's been spotted way up in Canada.

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      Eddie Mezick 6 weeks ago

      Have you ever fried the stems it like okra?

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 6 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Eddie: no, I haven't.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 6 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Eddie: no, I haven't.

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      E. C. Strange 5 weeks ago

      Do not cook in an aluminum pot.

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      Dixie Snyder--Oklahoma 4 weeks ago

      I've only eaten it by boiling it once once, drained, added a little oil or bacon grease, and scrambled eggs in it. Eaten with cornbread it's very addictive. Lol. Never been sick and we pick it without gloves. Not saying you should, just saying that's what we do.

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      Big Dave 3 weeks ago

      I life in Kentucky I have ate Polk Greens my whole live. I cook Polk like my Momma did. Pick it before the leaves get to big or before it gets berries. Boil it with Pork(ham hock) until it is tender.

      Also we soak the tender Polk Stocks in salt water over night and fry in bacon grease. It taste like okra.

      And the roots are an hallucinogens used for pain control. The roots can kill you.

      Berries swallowed whole will cure ulcer. Yes they will kill you too.

      Most medicines are poison.

      I ate poke greens for supper with tobacco.

      Em good eaten.

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      Deborah 2 weeks ago

      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.

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      Doug 2 weeks ago

      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.

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      Larry Rankin 2 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      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:-)

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      Larry Rankin 2 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      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.

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      Doug 2 weeks ago

      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 profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      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.

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      Jennifer Alexander 11 days ago

      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.

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      Larry Rankin 10 days ago from Oklahoma

      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.

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      V. Saeed 40 hours ago

      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?

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      Ron Pittman 35 hours ago

      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.

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      Melvin 5 hours ago

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

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