Eating Wild Things: Polk Salad
Whatever you do, don’t eat Polk Salad. It is both delicious and toxic. All parts of the plant are toxic. I’ve been eating Polk Salad since childhood and apart from some drain bamage, I seem to be okay, but why risk it.
“Ingestion of poisonous parts of the plant may cause severe stomach cramping, nausea with persistent diarrhea and vomiting, sometimes bloody, slow and difficult breathing, weakness, spasms, hypertension, severe convulsions, and death. However, consuming fewer than 10 uncooked berries is generally harmless to adults. Several investigators have reported deaths in children following the ingestion of uncooked berries or pokeberry juice. Severe poisonings have been reported in adults who ingested mature pokeweed leaves and following the ingestion of tea brewed from one-half teaspoonful of powdered pokeroot.”
Okay, you’ve been properly warned.
Find Polk Salad (aka: pokeweed, poke) growing throughout the south along roadsides and in open fields. Polk grows in full sun. It is a true weed and will grow in the poorest of soils and hard packed clay.
I boil my Polk Salad, drain and rinse thoroughly before cooking. I also use only young plants and I usually stay away from the stems (although admittedly I have fried young stems like okra). Also, I only prepare a small portion. I cook them with scrambled eggs and make a kind of Polk Salad omelet. I season with a bit of salt and ground pepper and nothing more.
The flavor is similar to spinach or turnip greens, although with spinach or turnip greens you don’t risk killing yourself and they are available at your local produce stand. The reason I eat Polk Salad is for the fond memories it stirs up of my childhood. Perhaps my folks fed it to us intending to thin out the herd and cull out the weak among us. For whatever reason, it instilled a passion for the poisonous Polk.
Whatever you do, do not eat Polk Salad, Jack