Thursday, May 30, 2013


Poke Weed is probably the most famous of the edible wild greens.  Most folks have heard of it, but few know what it looks like, or how good it is!  For 7 years I lived in the rural Southern Missouri Ozarks.  Many folks there knew poke, and used it.  Some even had it planted at the back of their garden where they had a reliable crop every year.  I have even seen it in cans in the grocery store.  But where we live now in the upper midwest, very few people know about Poke even though it grows here just as well.  Once you get a taste for Poke, nothing else will quite do.  It'll have you looking forward to spring, and eyeing the places you know it grows.

Poke Weed in a perennial with a huge root.  Once established, the only way to get rid of it is dig out that great big root.  It grows in waste places, especially where the ground has bee disturbed.  Left to itself, there can be a pretty good patch in just a few years.  The greens are edible in the spring.  Harvest the tender tops, and boil them for a few minutes, then change the water, and do it again.  Early in the spring, probably two changes of water is sufficient.  Even later in the season the very young tops and leaves are still edible, but even with several changes of water, may be kind of strong.  I have been told tannic acid is the problem.  

For positive ID, if you aren't sure about a patch of something you think is Poke, just wait, and watch it. It will get three to four feet high, and have purple berries in the fall which stain everything.  If so, then you'll know where your patch is next year.  I'll take some photos of it later in the year, and add to this post.

The best way to cook Poke is the old hillbilly way.  After boiling it through two or three changes of water, transfer it to a skillet and fry it a couple minutes in bacon grease.  Then add some eggs, and scramble.  We got greedy, and ate half the batch here before I thought to take a photo.  The date was 5/29, and this Poke was very mild, and good.  You can spice it however you like, I prefer just salt, and pepper.  If you wanted to go to the trouble of canning or freezing some Poke, it would make a very nice mid winter treat.  Really good!

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