Grandpappy's Basic Recipes
Copyright © April 19, 2008 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
Poke Sallet Weed
All Rights Reserved.
For Educational Purposes Only.
New Food Precaution
Since some people are allergic to common ordinary foods, such as milk products and eggs and nuts, it is only reasonable to suspect that some people will be allergic to some wild foods, such as poke sallet weed.
Never eat any wild food that you cannot positively identify.
Whenever you are experimenting with any new food you have never eaten before, you should only experiment with a very, very small quantity of it the first time you try it to determine if you are allergic to it.
Chew one teaspoon full of the wild food and them immediately spit it all out. Wait 24 hours to see if you develop an allergic reaction to the food. If you do not experience a negative reaction then the next day you can chew and swallow one teaspoon full of the wild food and then wait another 24 hours to see how your system responds.
If you have an allergic reaction to the food, then you should avoid it in the future.
However, if you do not develop any allergic reactions to a very small quantity of the food, then the next day you may eat a little more of it.
It is not wise to eat too much of an unknown food that your body has never digested before. Always begin with a very meager portion and then gradually add just a little more each day to help prevent a serious allergic reaction to a new food.
Introduction to Poke Sallet Weed
Do not confuse the word "sallet" for "salad."
(Harvest in the Early Spring to Mid-Summer)
Uncooked raw poke leaves are mildly poisonous and may cause vomiting and diarrhea, both of which can be easily avoided by boiling the leaves before eating them. Also, poke leaves should be picked in the spring or early summer when they are no more than 6 to 8 inches long. After mid-July, the veins in the leaves turn red and the leaves are too mature and contain toxin levels that can be unsafe.
- Sallet means cooked greens.
- Salad means uncooked greens.
In the early spring, poke sallet reaches a height of about two feet.
By late summer, the plant can be between six to seven feet tall. The picture on the right is a mature poke weed. The plant in the picture is too mature to be used as food.
Poke weed is recognized by its magenta or purple main stalk. The leaves are between 6” to 10” long and about 2” to 3” wide.
The summer flowers are small and white or pinkish and they are followed by green berries which turn dark purple when they ripen (see picture). Do not eat the flowers, berries, or the main purple stalk that supports the plant.
Never eat the poke berries. However, the berries may be crushed and their juice used to make a red dye or a red ink. Inside each berry there are between 8 to 13 black seeds. The seeds are also poisonous and the seeds should never be eaten.
Young Poke Leaves
During the Great Depression of the 1930's young poke sallet leaves were widely eaten by many southern families on a regular basis. In my opinion boiled young poke leaves have a consistency and taste similar to a mixture of boiled spinach, collard, and turnip greens.
Young poke leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are very nutritious if you first boil the leaves three times in clean water. Change the water between each boiling. Boil for a minimum of 10 minutes during each of the three boilings. Drain all the water from the leaves after each boiling by using a colander or a strainer.
You should use the same degree of caution with poke sallet leaves as you would with raw pork meat. Raw pork should never be eaten until after it has been thoroughly cooked. After the pork has been cooked well done it can be safely consumed. The same exact principle applies to raw poke sallet leaves. Never eat the leaves until after they have been boiled in clean water three times. After three boilings young poke sallet leaves may be safely consumed.
- Do not eat mature poke leaves that have visible red veins in the leaf itself. Only pick young poke sallet leaves.
- Do not eat poke leaves until after you have boiled them three times.
- Do not eat poke leaves if you are pregnant or nursing.
If a food item is boiled to make it safe to eat, and that food does not contain any harmful substances, then a single boiling for the appropriate amount of time is usually adequate to make the food edible and digestible.
However, if a food item contains substances that are harmful to the human body, and the purpose of the boiling is to remove the danger of those harmful substances, then for safety and health reasons the food is normally boiled more than one time, and the water is changed between each boiling. The reason is because the water from the first boiling will contain most of the harmful substances. If the food item is simply removed from that water and consumed, then some of the harmful substances may still be on the food because the food was in contact with the water and the harmful substances just prior to eating.
If the first water is discarded and fresh water is added to the cook pot, and the food is boiled again, then the fresh water has a chance to extract any remaining harmful substances that may still be clinging to the food item. For safety and health reasons, some food items are boiled in fresh water a third time. After the third boiling the chance of any harmful substances still being on the food is significantly reduced.
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