Don't be so quick to pull up those pesky "weeds" that tend to pop up in flower beds, gardens, along fence lines, underneath pine trees, or in other shady areas. You know them -- the ones that grow into TREES with purple stalks and purple berries, then dry up to look like cane poles.
Why, you ask? Unbeknownst to most people outside of Appalachia, those Phytplacca Poke plants, poke weeds, poke salet are delicious edible greens! As the temperatures start to rise and the growing season begins, I am on the look-out! I am sure to be asked by my 90-year old mama and my 80-year cousin Rose, Is the poke coming up yet? A good poke connoisseur can spot a plant along the road or in a field. I was quite thrilled to find a few nice poke plants growing in the shrubbery around my church this summer. (I have offered to bring a mess of Poke Greens to one of our Small Group Fellowships, but my northern Ohio friends don't seem very excited about them).
Hillbilly Food Factoid: You can make a meal from weeds and corn bread. Some people like to fix them like wilted lettuce, but this is our family's method from as far back as I can remember.
Our property is bordered by a dairy farm. Every year we walk the fence line to find an ample supply of Poke. It seems that the big, overgrown plants have populated the area behind our back forty with hundreds of young, tender poke plants! NO WAY could I let those plants go to waste, so off I went with several plastic grocery bags and some scissors.
STAY AWAY FROM THE LARGE PLANTS! THEY ARE BITTER AND CAN BE POISONOUS!!
Dump the poke greens into the sink and fill with water. All the undesirables will rise to the surface (In this batch, there were pine needles and a few lightning bugs). Be sure to remove any seed sprouts from the tops of the plants.
Pinch off any bad leaves and place in the other side of the sink. Once all the greens are "looked," fill the sink with water for a second bath.
Place into a large colander and drain.
Now you're ready! Place the greens into a large pot (or pots) and fill about half-way with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Keep a rolling boil for several minutes until the greens begin to cook down.
Once the greens start wilting, they will turn to a nice bright green color. This is called blanching.
Pour your wilted greens back into the colander and drain. You'll be asking yourself, "Where did they all GO?!!!" (In this case, two plastic grocery bags that required two cookers to blanch filled half my colander).
(If you have more greens than you can eat, fill up some small freezer bags and save for later)
Next, get your skillet and add some bacon grease and apple cider vinegar. For this step, you will have to determine what tastes best for you. For us, we like a little more vinegar with some sugar added.
Melt the bacon grease and add the blanched poke greens into the skillet. Cover and cook down until all the greens are turned to a dark green color.
Your POKE GREENS are now ready to eat!
With some leftover Meatloaf, fresh cukes from the garden, a Honey rock cantaloupe from the local market, some baked corn bread and Sweet Tea, our Poke Green weeds made a fine supper tonight!
Please Note: Although these edible greens are delicious, be careful not to eat too many at one sitting.
They are Nature's Laxative!
They are Nature's Laxative!