Poke Salad

My grandmother said if you ate 8 messes of poke salad you would not get sick that year.

Poke salad can be very poisonous and has to be prepared just so. Preparation involves boiling the greens in water and pouring off the water. Replenish the water and boil again. You need to do this at least six times.

You pick the very young leaves that have just emerged. If any red can be seen, it is poisonous. My mother painted her fingernails with red poke berries as a child. Her grandfather got very upset. He had her to wash her hands and gave all the cautions adults do.

Birds love the red berries. The old adage of if you see an animal eat it, you can eat it is just plain wrong. Periodically you hear of someone being treated of mild poke salad poisoning. The seeds are incredibly poisonous but their shell is so hard, they are said to be viable for 40 years. Birds also love poison ivy berries. Imagine dying of eating poison ivy berries, convulsive scratching before anaphylatic shock.

I guess you think my caution reflex is in overdrive. It isn't. I've seen too much to not know people have feet of clay. I've done some foolish things. So far, I've done nothing that has killed me.

In South Georgia, people do not talk about eating poke salad. I think I might be the last generation to eat the plant. I stopped pointing it out to students when I noticed a student who was considering a harvest. It is one of those things that will not hurt you if done properly but will certainly kill you otherwise. It is like harvesting wild mushrooms.

Poke Salad probably prevented scurvy is my guess why it prevented illness. In the mountains, people ate poke salad along with ramps. They were the food of the poor which is a whole lot of people of the mountains. The growing season really goes year round in South Georgia. Certain plants like collards produce year round. I had an uncle that had some collard plants that were about 4 years old in his back yard.

What does poke salad taste like? It taste likes weeds. It is not a good taste but a palatable one. You usually cook them and then scramble a few eggs in them like spinach. I don't recommend doing this because some varieties are poisonous. But they taste like the grass you mow boiled. This is up there with something tasting like dirt. I have never eaten boiled grass or dirt. But I have eaten a mess of poke salad.

I go through my picture archives and cannot find one of poke salad. I've got a few reedy stems near the road. That is what is left this time of year and it is a drought. Next year, I will have to get a good picture.
The dried stems are the poke salad. They are usually bright red with green leaves this time of year. But we are in a drought.



Beauty Berry

Cotton Bolls


Comments

  1. I haven't eaten poke salad, grass or dirt, 3 for 3 there I guess haha

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    1. If you get sick, I recommend going to the doctor. I think that was my grandmother just wanting us kids to "eat up". 3 out of 3 ain't bad.

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  2. I have at least heard about it! Someone else blogged about it recently. Think I will pass though.

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    1. My grandmother and her kin passed on middle class values, but how they ate was for another century for sure.
      I am going to gather some more this next year. My mom talks about eating them all summer when she sees them. I have skipped picking them for reasons you understand. But a few more batches may be what is good for mom. Thanks for visiting Alex.

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  3. I remember a song about Poke Salad Annie, but have never tried the greens

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    1. A song written by Tony Joe Wright. He is also authentic. So much about the South and it's legends are all so made-up. I was about 30 when it dawned on me maybe half I thought learned new about the South in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution was made up by someone spouting off. The South is so colorful because we have got the biggest storytellers. I'll have to listen to the song again although I may cringe. Have a good morning Mountain Man.

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  4. I had not heard of this so it was all educational :) I'm not sure I could eat it though unless I knew the person well enough who prepared it and knew what they were doing. My mom's dad could "spot" the "safe" wild mushrooms to eat.

    betty

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    1. You really have to be trained to eat and cook so many wild victuals. Poke salad is actually poke sallet. Sallet in that the greens have to be cooked. If you eat them raw, they will kill you. There are some traditions that are good to go. I'm only cooking a batch this next year because my mom wants to eat them. Otherwise, I got a garden. Take care Betty.

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  5. I certainly never heard of poke salad. My parents used to talk of making salads as children from plants I consider weeds and I've long forgotten how to make them. We never ate wild mushrooms. My father knew someone who had died from poisonous ones so they were permanently off our table.

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    1. I agree with your dad.

      I've heard of wild salad. It's made up of several wild plants that grow up in wild areas. My grandmother always dropped it in hot bacon grease. So it would actually be a sallet what they ate. I wish I knew the plants. I know Pennsylvania had similar traditions. My great-grandfather Scyrock came from Pennsylvania. I know it is a Mennonite name. He was a Baptist married to my Great grandmother Evans Scyrock.

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  6. Poke salad doesn't sound very appealing. But then, neither does Mountain Oysters or cooked crickets!
    When I first heard Poke salad could be poisonous I was surprised that people would still eat it once they knew, until I read that generations of folks have eaten it just fine and believe the poison warning was circulated by grocery stores (back in the 50's) who wanted them to eat store-bought food instead.

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    1. It depends on preparation. It can be very poisonous otherwise.

      We eat a lot of locally grown produce. I try to grow a few tomato plants.

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