Home > Eating Wild Things > Eating Wild Things: Polk Salad

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.

From Wikipedia ~ the source of all wisdom

“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

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  1. George Krpan
    May 19, 2011 at 8:47 pm | #1

    The last time I heard of polk salad was in Tony Joe White’s 1969 hit “Polk Salad Annie”.


  2. The Velo Hobo
    May 20, 2011 at 5:51 pm | #2

    That brings back memories…is it me or does that dude look like Vampire Bill on “True Blood”

    • George Krpan
      May 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm | #3

      It is revealing of how old I am remembering Polk Salad Annie but not knowing Vampire Bill or True Blood. But, I will check it out.

  3. Randy Minnick
    July 19, 2011 at 1:09 am | #4

    Your are HURTING me!! LOL! Thank you for the warning and update on toxins to my body. I was quite unaware that Poke Salad was toxic! I have heard, however, that it was very much a staple to poor folks in the south for many a decade. Since I truly believe that the US economy is about to tank, I wanted to rely on the little folk lore that I remember as a youth. Polk Salad, turnip greens, beet tops, carrot tops, and such were considered to be very acceptable ingredients to anyone’s diet. So, again, I thank you for bringing me up to date and with a good laugh to boot!

  4. The Velo Hobo
    July 19, 2011 at 6:26 am | #5

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve been revisiting a few of the edible wild things from my childhood. There are some wonderfully tasty things growing out there. In my neck of the woods berries are just coming ripe.

    I can’t say enough about the value of a good feild guide. I have had several Petterson’s Guide books, from trees, birds, wildflowers, mushrooms and wild edibles. They are all very helpful.


  5. Sharon Reid
    April 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm | #6

    I eat polk salad about twice a year and have never gotten sick! It is a delicious plant when cooked properly!!

  6. The Velo Hobo
    April 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm | #7

    Thanks for the comment Sharon and I agree, it’s delicious. In my neck of the woods, young ramps ready for the digging and the odd morel or two may be hiding under the cover of fallen leaves. I’m going to try to go our and forage a little this weekend. Jack

  7. bill
    December 31, 2012 at 10:09 am | #8

    I ate polk as a child and not brcausr it was tasty to me either it was outof necessity. Me personally think it is aweful but thats the way i remrmber it.

  8. Esther B. Thomas
    April 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm | #9

    Thanks for the eggs idea. Am cooking some now. Will rinse and add eggs. No one mentioned collecting from shady places. These are tender and Clean even bigger leaves.
    The tenderness is the key not the size. It took me 40 years to discover this food & many more years to learn how to cook it. You fortunate people! s

    • April 19, 2013 at 7:24 am | #10

      Mmmm, sounds good. Ramps are begining to come into season here as well. I need to get out and start collecting. Thanks for the comment, Jack

  9. Ann Hughes
    May 17, 2013 at 4:23 pm | #11

    May 16,2013 at 4:13 p.m
    I love Polksalad I pick it and wash it leave by leave,Put in water and bring to a rolling boil.
    pour off water rinse salad with cold water .put back in water and bring to a boil again.wash
    polksalad with cold water and put back on stove for third time,after it comes to a boil this
    time drain water and strain it.mash all the water out of it you can.Take a skilet put enough oil in it to cook green onions,after the onions are tender take polksalad and put on top .I use 3 to 4 eggs beaten and pour over top.stir until eggs are done. Wow its readdy just give me some hot corn bread and polksalad. its a meal in its self, Ann

    • Esther B.Thomas.
      May 18, 2013 at 8:47 am | #12

      Hello Hobo, Just had some polk greens. Mine were planted by the birds under A pine tree. The pine is gone but there’s still some shade. It is clean and tender and the stalks grow tall. I like the peeled stalks better than the leaves.Learned about the stalks from you & your commenters. Polk is best to me with a little unsalted butter a little sea salt. Nothing else! I’ve learned some use 3 changes of water just to be on the safe side. Thsnks, Hobo. What else can I TRY? Esther/Florida

      • The Velo Hobo
        May 18, 2013 at 6:08 pm | #13

        Esther, I heading out tomorrow to look for stinking nettles. Very yummy and very nutritious…I even enjoy getting stung, but I’m just weird that way.

        • Esther B.Thomas.
          July 19, 2013 at 11:24 am | #14

          Hi Hobo,Just found this. I have lots of sting nettles and bull nettles (white flowers). Don’t care for taste but they both make good hair tonic and can make capsules when dried. Any thing else interesting? Thanks for your reply. Esther

    • The Velo Hobo
      May 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm | #15

      Ann, Sounds great! There’s tons here in Western North Carolina this year…must be the mild winter we had.

  10. July 31, 2013 at 8:31 am | #16

    I broke off the tips of some new leaves at the top of the plant and ate them raw yesterday afternoon taking care to avoid the berries and stem. I don’t recommend this. Now I know why they need to be boiled for at least 10 minutes. The sensation of urge to clear my throat spread from one tiny spot at the back of my throat to my whole mouth by this morning, and I’ve had diarrhea twice. The last thing I need is more brain damage… hope I live.

  1. December 31, 2013 at 10:29 am | #1

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