Gators got your Granny

Sweet Tatorman's picture

A pop cultural reference likely to blow by those under 50.
I have a reluctance to eating things that can poison me if not properly prepared. Poke salad, Phytolacca Americana, has long been on my list and up until recently I had never tried it despite years of encouragement from a long time friend who is a big fan of it.
Last week we got together midway between our respective homes in Georgia and Tennessee for some outdoor recreation. Upon returning to our vehicles she noted an abundance of Poke salad nearby and gathered up a sack of it. Having already accepted an offer of supper at her place I surmised that the time had come to try it. If you google cooking Poke salad you will find that there is quite a range to the measures employed to reduce the toxins in the stuff all of which involve boiling and draining some number of times. My friend only boils and drains once and I don't think that she even rinsed after the initial draining. I found it to be quite tasty, similar to cooked spinach. No ill effects noted.
Here is the Wikipedia entry on the plant with a long listing of the potentially toxic compounds it contains.
Here is a link from a guy who is obviously a fan of the stuff. Curiously he suggests handling with gloves to avoid the possibility of contact dermatitis. No one I know who eats the stuff does this. I also picked a bunch of it recently without use of gloves with no problem.
Poke is an extremely abundant weed locally so this Sunday I decided to pick some and prepare. I decided to be a bit more cautious and boil and drain twice. The second boil and drain was brief as I had heated a second pot of water for this purpose during the heating and boil of the pot with the greens. Essentially I was rinsing with hot water after the initial drain. Like spinach it cooks down in volume a lot. Two plastic grocery bags [still on the stems] once stripped from the stems and cooked down makes about six large servings.
Despite being quite tasty and not causing any apparent ill effect I am still a bit wary of the stuff. Just because something doesn't make you sick it not proof that it is not potentially harmful. Are there any fans of Poke salad on the forum?
For those missing the subject line cultural reference, go here:

I pulled poke-weed for decades with my bare hands. Young plants, old towering monsters, I got them all.

Then, a few years ago, I started getting a rash on my hands whenever I pulled the plants. Eventually, I figured out that pulling poke-weed can, with enough time and exposure lead to sensitivity and contact dermatitis.

I wear gloves now and I recommend that everyone do so. I don't know how common this is. I'm one of those people who get the weird, rare side-effects. That is, Valerian and Benedryl which put everyone else to sleep make me hyper.

I also don't know if cooking and rinsing would remove the contact dermatitis Or give me an internal rash but I don't plan to eat any poke-weed to find out.

ClareBroommaker's picture

I ate this as a child because my grandmother would cook it after sending us kids out to pick it. But I don't bother with it. I'm afraid of it and I don't want to have to cook, drain, re-cook, drain. If I were to cook it I don't think I'd do any less than two rinses, and that is just too much heating the kitchen. It is poke sallet picking time here now, and this year it is cool enough to welcome the extra heat in the house, but normally by this part of May I'm looking for ways to avoid cooking.

Beautiful as the plant is when fully grown and sporting those clusters of dangling berries, it is a competitive nuisance weed in my garden and so hard to get rid of. Will never forget the year I dug up an old root as big as a horse's leg. If I had a lot more space this is one of the things I'd let have its niche, along with morning glories, Japanese honeysuckle, and sweet autumn clematis.

I've never had dermatitis from it, but it strikes me as being quite capable of causing it.