While visiting the MIL on our (usually) annual visit to Tennessee I could not help but notice the tall, pinkish-red stemmed weedy looking plants in her garden. She informed me that it was poke, a traditional southern/Native American green, and mentioned she had some cooked poke up in her freezer and offered to serve some at dinner.
I took her up on it. I had heard of poke before, usually as pokeweed or poke sallet. I also knew uncooked/unprocessed pokeweed is toxic. I wasn’t too clear on her explanation of how she prepared it, although there was mention of frying and bacon grease near the end as frequently occurs in her kitchen.
What can I say? They’re cooked greens. VERY cooked greens, of necessity, which remarkably retained some flavor (beyond the bacon grease, which was very understated in this instance). Flavor somewhat reminiscent of a mix of good spinach and the green leafy part of bok choy, sweeter than I anticipated.
Well, I did some little research on it once back home and with access to the internet and I’m beginning to understand why this is not available in stores. Apparently, some toxin remains even after proper cooking. The primary symptom is, um, elimination. Can’t say that I was much troubled, though it would account for the doubling of normal visits to the Little Room the morning after eating said greens. Nothing catastrophic in this instance, and given that diet changes while traveling sometimes either slow down or speed up my gastrointestinal tract maybe just a coincidence.
Since the Other Half is somewhat prone to digestive complaints I think I may discard rather than use the frozen half-pound of pokeweed sent back north with us. Recommendations on all websites consulted are “eating not recommended”. Too bad. Obviously, has some utility as a survival food (if you have sufficent boiling water to detoxify it to edible levels) but lack of food is not a problem in the US these days, at least not at my house.
Would be nice if someone could develop a non-toxic cultivar, as having a perennial source of tasty greens has appeal to some of us. Alas, no work seems to be underway in this area.
As the flavor is sort of “generic cooked greens” I’m thinking prudence would dictate going back to spinach, turnip tops, and the like. I’m not going to say jack to the MIL - she’s 70 years old and been eating it all her life (in much moderation, it’s not a daily affair). She’s a big girl who can make her own decisions about eating and apparently she’s not consuming enough to hurt her so I’ll leave well enough alone. Mountain folks are stubborn and attempts to dissuade her from eating something usually has the opposite effect.
And that, boys and girls, was this trip’s culinary adventure.
Other experiences with poke sallet and/or comments, cautions, etc. would be appreciated.