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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Loving to Eat Poisonous Poke Salat

poke salat--over 6 feet tall
see the red stalk and stems?
don't eat those

In the South we eat a highly toxic green. It grows wild around the country and in edges of yards. You can find it along fence lines, on the banks of ditches, in untended places.

Poke Salat is so popular that most Southern states have Poke Salat Festivals. I missed the one nearest me, twenty-miles away, this last weekend.

The trick to eating this poison is to parboil it three times. Wash the leaves thoroughly. Fill a pot, bring water and greens to a boil. Boil for five minutes, drain off the water by pouring leaves in a colander, rinse the pot thoroughly, rinse the leaves you have drained. Rinse thoroughly. Repeat this process two more times. None of the water must remain in the pot, on the sides of the pot, or in the draining leaves.

Now, the poke sallet/salat is not poisonous once prepared correctly. Poke sallet can be eaten like any other greens we eat. The article says it should be parboiled (cooked and rinsed) twice. Mama said three, I think, but three is what I will stick with. Maybe she meant it had to be cooked and rinsed twice and could be eaten the third time. ???

about 18 inches tall

At the festivals, it is cooked a different way. The restaurants cook the greens in water and a bit of bacon grease and pour in beaten eggs, scrambling the whole mess of greens and eggs. It is delicious!

Last year, I lovingly tended a poke salat plant.  I felt silly afterwards! They have a distinctive red stalk, something easily recognizable! What was I thinking? All I saw was a volunteer!

A Little Story--poke salat thief
One day, I just happened to be standing at the picture window on the side of my house and could see a portion of the back fence and all the side fence. A man with a plastic bag was looking around, came to the fence, looked up and down the side fence and the back fence, all the while staying in the yard that is behind my neighbor next door. He could not see me. I thought he was up to no good, so I grabbed my cordless phone in order to call the police if necessary.

All of  sudden, he quickly stepped over the little, two-foot, decorative fence that is on ten feet of my property line. He hastily picked some poke in my yard, stuffing it into the plastic bag, rushing to pick more from the untended fence line. Then, in less than  a minute, he hurriedly retreated back to his side and strode to his house. I smiled because he was welcome to the poke salat in my yard.

Poke salat/sallet grows in my yard when it is not mowed correctly--all the way to the fence! Birds like the berries.  I leave the little bush so the birds can eat the berries and can poop the purple poop on my clothes and lawn furniture. Otherwise, it would not seem like summer.

Another story--my father cooks poke sallet/salat
Mama said that after they married and had moved to a little house in the country, Daddy brought home some poke sallet and proceeded to cook it. She warned him to drain and rinse the cooked greens. He refused, saying his mother never did that. They argued. He won. She refused to eat any. That made him angry. However, for the next three days he had the back-door-trots. She was laughing about this when I was a teen. When his gastrointestinal tract recovered, he vowed to never eat poke salat again. Mama said she had never seen anyone as ill as he was.

My poke
I noticed I had poke sallet over six feet tall. I let it grow just because. Exbf cannot get all cleaned up to the fence without using a weed eater. I am grateful he mows, so I don't ask that of him. I do get him to weed eat near the house and around my rocks and shrubs/trees. Now that I have taken the picture, I will cut it down, since it is going to seed.

Hungry people
Poke salat has fed people for decades in the South. Imagine having poke salat from the wild and eggs from the yard, both cooked together. Poke sallet is an early spring plant. So, I imagine people hungry for a bit of green were eager to find it. Eating blackberries, plums, and other food found commonly growing wild in rural areas meant people would not starve in the spring and summer until crops came in. Yes, people in the South were sometimes starving, but they survived, as did the poor in other parts of the country. We didn't have and don't have a monopoly on poverty or edible wild food. I am sure others know more than I about edible food growing wild.

There are people now that are not hungry or suffering in any way that love poke salat and will go out of their way to find it. One of my goals this year is to cook some poke from my back yard. I never ate it as a child. Daddy was probably afraid it would kill us kids. 

Have you ever heard of  the song, Poke Salad Annie? It is NOT polk; it's poke! Words are at the bottom of the post. Do you remember the song? 

soooo wrong. If I am wrong,
correct me, please.

POLK SALAD ANNIE (Words & Music : Tony Joe White)
Elvis Presley Tom Jones Tony Joe White

Some of you all never been down South too much...
I'm gonna tell you a little story, so you'll understand where I'm talking about
Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods and the fields,
and it looks something like a turnip green.
Everybody calls it Polk salad. Now that's Polk salad.
Used to know a girl that lived down there
and she'd go out in the evenings to pick a mess of it...
Carry it home and cook it for supper, 'cause that's about all they had to eat,
But they did all right.
Down in Louisiana Where the alligators grow so mean
Lived a girl that I swear to the world
Made the alligators look tame
Polk salad Annie
'Gators got your granny
Everybody said it was a shame
For the mama was working on the chain-gang
What a mean, vicious woman
Everyday before suppertime
She'd go down by the truck patch
And pick her a mess of Polk salad
And carry it home in a tote sack
Polk salad Annie
'Gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause the mama was working on the chain-gang
Whoo, how wretched, dispiteful, straight-razor totin' woman,
Lord have mercy.
Sock a little Polk salad to me
Yeah, you know what, yeah, yeah
Her daddy was a lazy and a no-count
Claimed he had a bad back
All her brothers were fit for
Was stealing watermelons out of my truck patch
For once Polk salad Annie
'Gators got your granny
Everybody said it was a shame
For the mama was working on the chain-gang
Sock a little Polk salad to me
You know I need a meal miss
You sock a little Hey, hey, hey, yeah, yeah
(Chic a bon, chic a bon, chic a bon bon bon bon
Chic a bon, chic a bon, chic a bon bon bon bon)
Sock a little Polk salad to me
You know I need a meal miss
Sock a little Polk salad to him
You know I need a meal
Chinc, chinc, chinc, chin, ling, ling ling

Hmmm? Poor=promiscuous

Your turn
Have you ever eaten poke sallet? Will you share your memories? Do you eat it now?


  1. I truly enjoyed reading this..

  2. Wimmera,
    Thank you so much. I enjoyed writing it. I wish more people would say even a simple, heartfelt thing. I feel so lonely when I write with no feedback. I live for any know...needy?

    I appreciate all comments even those who disagree nicely.

  3. Purple poop? lol. That's funny. We find purple poop in the woods here, from the bears eating blueberries. I wouldn't want that on my laundry, lol.

  4. Wendy,
    LOL...we don't want purple poop on our laundry either! Purple bear poop must be horrendous looking!

  5. Just came over from our blog via the link you left. This is SUCH a great post. Thank you for this!!! I might take a chance next Spring...


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