It’s interesting to me how a plant can be edible and poisonous at the same time. Pokeweed is one of those wild plants. Normally, I stay away from wild edibles that have a poisonous element but Poke is one of those rare exceptions. It’s just too dang good.
Poke is normally an early riser – popping up in early Spring. I’ve been finding tons of new plants lately, though. Before we get into this post very far I need to tell you a few important facts about Poke:
- The ROOTS are ALWAYS poisonous.
- The BERRIES are ALWAYS poisonous.
- The Mature Leaves, Stems and Stalk are ALWAYS poisonous.
So what is considered MATURE? My rule of thumb is that any plant over 18″ tall is mature OR if the plant has any hint of purple turning in the main stalk OR if the berry clusters have started to form. I know this seems like a lot of rules but POKE is worth it. I consider the poke in the photo below a NO GO.
Poke is prepared like any potherb – like spinach for example. Just boil a pot full of leaves in a few inches of water and then salt and season to taste. I’ve read in multiple field guides (including my favorite field guide – Peterson’s Guide to Wild Edibles for Eastern/Central North America) that it needs to be boiled in multiple changes of water but I’ve never done that and haven’t found it necessary.
Poke is a large leafy plant. The veins on the underside of the leaves are very noticeable and I use these to help identify the plant.
It can get to be 8+ feet tall. Here is a photo of a mature poke plant and also poke berries that haven’t turned purple yet. Everything about the plant in this stage is poisonous.
My new favorite way of eating POKE is with scrambled eggs. It is very easy to prepare and the POKE gives a really unique flavor to the dish. Until poke is out of season I’ll probably eat this dish 2-3 times per week. To make it I start by melting down some POKE leaves in a skillet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
After the leaves are nice and wilted I add in the eggs.
Finally, salt and pepper to taste and you’re good to go. Poke and Eggs fit for a king.
If you came across a bird’s nest in the wild this dish could theoretically be made in a primitive survival situation using a flat rock.
So how about you? Do you eat Pokeweed? If so, what’s your favorite way to prepare it?
Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,
Creek Stewart is the Owner & Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor Survival School located in Central Indiana & online at https://willowhavenoutdoor.com.