WHILE exploring the wilder parts of our back garden, I noticed some new pokeweed shoots coming up. Many people would recognise this plant, as it grows really tall and has a distinctive red stem and, in the autumn, black berries. But you may not know that poke is one of the first wild greens to appear in the Spring, and has been eaten for centuries. Most parts of the plant are actually poisonous, and despite a common name for the dish, "poke salad" or "salat", it should never be eaten raw. When cooked in a certain way, however, it is supposed to make a delicious vegetable dish. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to give it a try.
We harvested only shoots that were less than 6-7" tall as those taller become too toxic. Taking care not to include any of the very poisonous roots, the leaves were washed then boiled. They must be boiled for ten minutes at least twice, discarding the cooking water in between, in order to remove the toxins. (Needless to say this dish was not destined for the children.) Then, I dug in with a fork. I felt like a pioneer tasting something unknown, not knowing if I would wake up the next day or not. This thought alternated with the other that I was being ridiculous and people have been eating this wild stuff for years. The third thought was one of irony - that the general populace would think me most weird for voluntarily eating some 'nasty' weed from the garden that I knew to be poisonous; and yet they happily feed their children who knows what chemicals in the average processed food. If nothing else, it was quite the thought-provoking little weed!
Well? you ask. It was absolutely delicious. Texture soft like canned asparagus (well, it was boiled to death). Taste, somewhat like creamed spinach. I suffered no ill consequences and have been unconsciously looking for poke everywhere I go ever since.