How 'poisonous' are polk (or poke) berries?

I’ve always heard that they’re not edible, and various sources agree that they’re poisonous. How poisonous? Belly ache? Death? What is so poisonous about them?

Wikipedia says thus.

I can personally tell you that I ate a batch of pokeweed berries when I was too young to know better, and I suffered no ill effects other than having my urine dyed red for a day or so. (Well, that, and I got a good tanning on my backside, but that would be considered an indirect effect).

I looked this up a few years back, so no cite, but it’s said that the saponins in a dozen or so berries are enough to give an adult a nasty stomach ache, or perhaps kill a child. Being pretty, it’s fortunate that the fruits are basically tasteless and seedy. -That info’s from a personal taste test, not wild internet rumor.

Not much, actually. Its toxicity is usually described as “low”. (example, from a vet site.)

And from here.

The berries aren’t very toxic at all, but the *seeds *in them are:

Young shoots and leaves are fine to eat in poke sallet (cooked! “Sallet” is *not *a misspelling of “salad!”). Older leaves have more toxins in them. I wouldn’t eat a poke shoot longer than my hand.

The Indians used the root as medicine.

(I use the root as medicine. Best damn lymphatic out there. :smiley: )

Mitakuye oyasin, Medicine Woman.

Are you Sioux???

Holy Cow! Almost 30,000 views!

Tony Joe White song referencing the plant in question…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7re4D15-Aaw

I never understood the attraction of springtime poke greens, seeing all the boiling and water discards that are recommended. You’d think the safely cooked stuff would be limp and unappetizing - survival food at best.

On the other hand, it’s sort of an ornamental plant. I am growing a variety with bright chartreuse leaves, which go nicely with the purple berries.

Polk salad Annie,
Gator’s got your granny,
chomp. Chomp chomp…

My mother-in-law used to make poke sallet. For something boiled for two hours in multiple changes of water it was not as limp as you’d suspect, and actually had some flavor left in it. Sort of reminded me of chard, or bok choi, or spinach - it wasn’t one of the tougher, more bitter greens like turnip or collard.

Although cooking it properly is such a pain in the backside yeah, mostly survival food once European crops became common. Turnip greens are a lot less bother and quicker to cook, as an example.

I grew up on it. Granted, I never cooked it - my father did - but I always liked the the taste. It was anything but flavorless.

Neither WhyNot nor Johanna are, but WhyNot is a herbalist (and a nurse - but she was a herbalist first) and Johanna is a linguist (I think she hold the Dope’s record for “most languages known”).

The best use for poke berries is playing the poor kids equivalent of paintball with them. Yes, we did a lot of that. They also make a good war paint when you’re playing cowboys and Indians.

We also ate quite a bit of poke salad. It ain’t that great. You definitely don’t eat it because it tastes good.