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.