Poke Salad: Popular, Free and Tasty: Is It Good for You?

Young poke weed plant
Phytolacca americana berry cluster. – Image Courtesy Kyle Hamar.
In the U.S., especially in the southern states, a popular “soul food” is poke salad (also called poke sallet). Perhaps you are unfamiliar with it. What is poke salad? It is a cooked preparation of the leaves of the common Pokeweed, or Phytolacca americana.

How to Pinch Your Poke

Ask most anyone and they’ll tell you to collect only very small leaves. It is traditional to return to the spots where it’s been seen growing before. The leaves are washed, and sometimes cooked in a skillet with some onion. It may then be eaten with scrambled eggs or used in an omelet.

Did I say traditional? Why there’s even a song about poke salad – Poke Salad Annie

Is It Safe for All to Eat?

In fact, it really is wise to steer clear of poke weed. There are a host of complex organic compounds – toxins – in Phytolacca americana. Granted, properly cooked they can be eaten without making the eater sick. If you think about it, almost all medicines in any serious quantity are toxic to humans. Yet, if taken in very limited doses, they are not toxic to the user.

There is even a poke weed festival. Enjoy this brief video that proves the point…

So When is Poke Truly Bad?

The portion of the plant containing the least quantity of toxins is the young leaves of the developing plant. Toxins in the leaves increase with increasing plant maturity. The rootstock and the poke berries contain a higher level of toxins. Eating the berries and can even result in the death of the one eating!

Have you decided you still wish to try poke salad? I like this gentleman’s approach. He respects the toxic issues and adjusts accordingly. Then he cooks for taste!

Note: You might also enjoy Is Eating Liver Bad for You?

References:

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One thought on “Poke Salad: Popular, Free and Tasty: Is It Good for You?

  • And I always thought salads were good for me! You have to be careful what you eat and from where. Very wise to post warnings where appropriate.

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