Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Pokeweed (phytolacca americana) , also known as poke, is a native species to Kentucky and can be found growing abundantly throughout the Eastern United States and Canada.
The leaves of this indigenous "weed" found growing in your backyard could be cooked into something truly delicious: poke sallet! But be careful - if prepared incorrectly you could end up with anything from stomach trouble to coma or even dying!
We're not sure if this is truly a dish to die for, but we go for it anyway in the video below.
First and foremost: DO NOT EAT POKEWEED! Every part of this plant including the roots, stems, leaves, seeds, and berries are toxic and are not meant to be eaten. In the video we go through an exact process to harvest at the correct time and extract all toxins from the leaves to make a small portion of Poke Sallet.
Do not attempt to consume poke weed under any circumstances. This article and video are by no means meant to be used as a recipe. The resources we used to prepare the food can be found at the bottom of this article or in the video description.
You may be wondering how this poisonous plant became a southern delicacy in the form of poke sallet. While Native Americans allegedly used poke weed for various medicinal purposes for centuries, Poke Sallet became popular with Kentuckians during the Depression Era around the 1930s. Because poke can grow over 10+ feet high and in various types of soil, it is a great food to have when there is scarcity. There's even an annual festival celebrating Poke Sallet in Harlan, Kentucky!
To prepare Poke Sallet, you start by harvesting the poke weed at the correct time of year, usually around mid-spring.
You only want to harvest the green leaves and shoots of the plant. It's very important that the plant and leaves are smaller than 12 inches, and there is no red or purple coloring, as this is the toxins taking over the plant as it matures later in the spring and summer.
Once you have harvested the poke weed, rinse under running water to assure there are no insects or other contaminants. You will need to bring a pot of water to a boil, and let the poke weed leaves stay in the boiling water for 10 minutes.
After the first 10 minute boil, separate the leaves from the greenish-yellow water that is now full of toxins and rinse. Bring another clean pot full of fresh water to another boil, and boil the poke for an additional 10 minutes. Dump the toxin-filled water and rinse once again. Bring the third and final clean pot with fresh water to a boil and let the leaves boil for a final 10 minutes.
After the process of boiling the poke weed leaves for 10 minutes three separate times (making sure to rinse and use fresh water each time), the poke weed is technically edible but will probably still have a medicinal-type taste.
To make a "true" dish of Poke Sallet, we fried the greens in a fry pan with butter, bacon fat, and a vinegar-marinade and served with rice and pork on the side.
Now, after all the hard work, it's time to enjoy a plate! Is it really worth it? We at Beargrass Thunder say sure; it was even better than expected! Was it truly a dish to die for? Definitely not.
While an impractical cuisine in today's modern society, it can certainly be a fun and tasty experiment as long as the correct steps and precautions are taken.