Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pokeweed Foraging with Granny

Back on Father's Day, my family grilled out at Lake Friarson, just outside Jonesboro, Arkansas. After downing my plate of veggie dogs, veggie burgers, potato salad, and baked beans, my Granny and I left the pack to go foraging for wild pokeweed. The stuff was growing all around the picnic grounds, so we grabbed a few grocery sacks to stuff.

Before that experience, I'd eaten Granny's poke salad before, but I'd never seen the wild weed in its natural habitat. Granny showed me what to look for. You want a young plant with a tender stalk rather than an older one with leaves that are turning red. I didn't get any photos of our foraging fun, but here's a picture of wild poke from Wikipedia:

Don't eat those berries though! Those are poisonous. In fact, the entire plant is poisonous, but folks down South have been eating the plant's leaves for years. According to Southern folk tradition, you have to boil the greens in water three times, pouring off the water each time, in order to cook out the toxins.

I'll admit that I was a little scared I wouldn't cook it right and then I'd end up dying or something. But Granny assured me that I probably wouldn't die. Wikipedia says poke poisoning can result in severe nausea, spasms, tremors, vomiting, and convulsions. Apparently, severe poke poisoning cases can result in coma or death. Eeek!

But I'm a huge supporter of keeping Southern foodways and folk culture alive. So I took one for the team and cooked my poke down three times, just like Granny said. I didn't have any immediate plans for the stuff, so I placed the cooled, cooked greens in a baggie in the freezer. I pulled them out this week to mix in with a tofu scramble. I used my recipe for Cheeze Eggs, the poke, and some Ro-Tel to make this Poke Salad Scramble:

This is the only way I've ever had poke because my Granny recommends cooking it with eggs. Since tofu is my eggs, I tried it this same way in 2008 when I cooked some poke that Granny had given me (after she'd already cooked out the toxins). It tastes very much like spinach, and it was the perfect complement to my yummy tofu scramble. I scooped it all into my mouth with a slice of whole wheat toast spread with Earth Balance and Marmite.

And guess what? I didn't die. I've eaten this breakfast for two mornings in a row with no adverse effects. I'm sure the poisonous claims about poke are true, but generations of Southern cooks (including my Granny) have been cooking out the toxins forever. I think I'll take their word for it and keep the food culture alive.

By the way, I'll be randomly choosing the winner of the Soap Nuts giveaway on Wednesday evening (around 10 p.m. CST). Enter here if you haven't already.

20 comments:

dreaminitvegan said...

That's pretty neat info about Pokeweed, I've never actually heard about it before. I think I would be too freaked out to eat it though.

Tiffany said...

I'm both intrigued and a little scared by the whole toxin thing, but that pokeweed tofu scramble does look mighty fine. :)

Rick said...

i for one am EXTREMELY GLAD you didn't die ;) lol

miss v said...

i'm glad you didn't die! thanks for getting us non southern folk all educated about poke!

Shear Sensations said...

very interesting...it sounds like in Puerto Rico where our culture eats almost every plant imaginable.

Lauren said...

I've never heard of Pokeweed, but very interesting!

I love learning southern cooking traditions from my grandparent's. My one grandma has this crazy cookbook on southern etiquette in relation to dinner parties.

The Shenandoah Vegan said...

There is tons of pokeweed every where around our property, but I wouldn't risk it.

The Voracious Vegan said...

YAY for you! That is real soul food right there and I love how passionate you are about keeping southern cuisine alive and well. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to eat something that your Granny says PROBABLY won't kill me! She sounds like a character, you are lucky to have her!

Dianne said...

We had tons of pokeweed in the backyard when I was growing up. I can't believe you can eat it!

Jessica said...

I've never tried pokeweed. There's a lot of Southern foods I've never had, and I agree it's worth finding out about them and keeping them alive. But I do understand being afraid of eating stuff that grows wild! I just had muscadine, something else I was not familiar with until very recently.

Mihl said...

Wikipedia laso tells me there's no pokeweed in Middleeurope :( But I think I once saw it in an botanic garden. I'd love to try your scramble.

sTyliSH1 said...

Wow I never even heard of it! Sounds great and I'm always for recipes that keep the culture alive!

i heart kimmie said...

I haven't thought about poke since I was a little girl. Of course, my granny would make it. I, being a silly kid, called it "pooger."

two vegan boys said...

That is cool to know about the Pokeweed. And I am glad eating it didn't make you sick or worse. The tofu scramble looks so tasty.

Leslie R. said...

This is so neat! I used to do group counseling with elderly people and they would always talk about poke salad. Way to veganize and honor a real Southern institution!!

VeganLinda said...

This is so funny, I was at a potluck last night where we were talking about edible weeds and possible side effects and pokeweed came up. Glad you are alive and well!

Trinity (of haiku tofu) said...

You're so brave! Glad you survived!

Jess of Midwest Vegan said...

I tend to ignore stuff I have to cook in three changes of water, mostly because I'm lazy. I'd try any food once! However, I am a fan of wild greens n' shrooms. My friend turned to on to lamb's quarters and wild chives (though you gotta get them young) and I've always liked baby dandelion greens in a fancy salad. Still haven't tried fiddleheads yet and I really want to try ramps but they don't grow around here.

Free food is the best food, lol.

Other Half said...

Don't forget about Tony Joe White. He's been singing about Poke Salad and grannies for years! Great post :)

COSMIC ARCATA said...

I have heard of poke salad. I haven't eaten it because I was always afraid I would do it wrong. I didn't know you could eat the leave...boiling three times to get toxins out. But I had heard that you should get the shoots and they were not poisonous or as poisonous.

When I lived in Chattanooga TN and we were traveling through the hill country, we saw a group of men with Turtle for Sale...and one man had a fire going with a black kettle of pokeweed boiling in it. Made me hungry. I really wanted to see them eat it and see if they would have any bad effects.

We don't have poke in Northern California ...so I won't be able to try it.

My children used to love to use the berries as paint.