Another Favorite Mountain Food Is Poke Greens (Or Polk Greens)

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   Poke Greens! YUM!

So far I have mentioned Ramps, and Morel mushrooms as wild West Virginia favorite foods. It is time for another. Pokeweeds, also known as poke, pokebush, pokeberry, pokeroot, polk salad, polk sallet, and inkberry is a spring tradition around these parts.

Young pokeweed leaves can be boiled three times to reduce the toxin, discarding the water after each boiling. The result is known as poke salit, or Poke salad, and is occasionally available commercially. Many authorities advise against eating pokeweed even after thrice boiling, as traces of the toxin may still remain. For many decades, Poke salad has been a spring favorite West Virginia cuisine, despite campaigns by doctors who believed pokeweed remained toxic even after being boiled.

My Granny and I have been eating this stuff for years, and I bet her Granny used to eat it also. It tastes a lot like spinach. I like taking a heaping spoonful, putting it in a bowl, giving it a good dose of salt and pepper, and then smothering it with vinegar. Tasty! My wife is fixing some tonight, and I can’t wait!

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  • Hammer says:

    If it tastes like spinach but has the potential to be dangerous, why not just eat spinach?

    • Kim says:

      to me it’s better than spinach… and nowadays I’d rather take a chance on eating poke that I pick and boil myself rather than have a mexican worker urinating all over the spinach you buy at the grocery…. Yuck! You can eat all the pee you want… I’ll eat some good poke greens!

      • Pam says:

        I have eaten poke greens forever. They are so much better than collards and free. We only picked the young, small leaves before the berries start developing. I didn’t know about the boiling 3 times. I’ve had 3 messes this week. I’m from KY, but live in SC and I’m an organic gardener. I’m 56 years old and take no perscription drugs and rarely take anything over the counter. I don’t think the poke greens did any harm. Agree with Kim, at least I know from whence they came and whose hands are on them.

        • Jo says:

          Can some one post a picture so I know I am picking and eating the correct poke green?

        • Good for you Pam…I have eaten poke and mustard since I was a little kid. I love them…I just cook them, season with bacon grease, salt and pepper. I had some for supper tonight with a little vinegar poured over the top. Very good. I do not take any medicine , except for arthritis. Made me a biscuit to eat with them . That is all I needed to get my stomach full. Very good natural food. All I did was wash them. I also didnt know about the 3 boiling method. I am 70 years old so if I die tonight….I will die with a full stomach. LOL I washed them myself , so I know there were no worms or bugs being ground up in the can. LOL

  • Bucky says:

    Where’s the fun in that?

    It tastes similar to spinach, but a bit more of a tang…must be the toxins…lol.

    Change in plans, we are eating Tuesday night, so if no knew posts get made, you will know that the toxins got the better of me. 🙁

  • Toxins, hmm — sounds delish LOL. Well, personally, I haven’t tried it. But you say you’ve been eating it for years, so I guess it is safe to eat.

  • LadyCougar says:

    I love it –I had it when i was younger
    but now it is hard to come by….
    Now we are cooking …..

  • Tricia says:

    You pick it in May when it first comes up before any flowers start, which is when it is not safe to eat anymore. I can this every spring and mix one jar with one can of spinach or turnip greens mixed with a bit of bacon. It has it’s own distinct flavor.

  • brad says:

    I am eating some now as I write this. You can eat the young ones year round and even fry the young stalks in flour salt and pepper. Dont eat raw. Boil the 2-3 times first. I have eaten them raw and even the berries in small amounts but I don’t suggest it. I am 39 and healthy as a horse. They taste better than spinach. The texture is about the same.

  • Getz says:

    mmmm, pokegreens. I haven’t had them in so long. I just finished reading the book “Icy Sparks”(yes, it was an Oprah Book club book, but it really was good) and it reminded me of them. I think I’ll be out to harvest them this spring. I can’t wait.

  • Renee says:

    My dad has eaten it since he was young and he introduced me to it at a young age as well. We live in Kentucky and it is available for us in spring too. My dad like to boil it 3 times and then put it into a pan, add some eggs and essentially scramble them together. We also like to put a little hot sauce on top for seasoning. It is amazing. I do think it tastes like spinach, but there is just something different and better about it. I recommend you try the egg thing!

  • MSG Moore says:

    I’m from Tenn and 48 yrs old and I’ve eaten poke greens al my life and I boil it three times then fry it when bacon gease and eggs so being fried takes care of any toxin that might be left, but like I said I’ve eaten all my life and nothing has happen to me yet

  • welton sanders says:

    boil young tender greens mix with cornmeal and egg and a little bacon grease .form into patties and fry like salmon been eating them my whole life am 66 and hope to see 67

    • Lisa Bentley says:

      I live in Kentucky and have been eating poke since I can remember. We cut up the leaves and stalks….mix them with flour and corn meal and fry them in bacon grease. I have never tried it boiled…hear it makes it slimmy. We haven’t been poisioned yet!! The one thing that makes me look forward to spring is poke!!!

  • mrmeval says:

    OMG you might DIE eating this. But you also might die from the billion other ‘toxic’ chemicals found in apples, ham, corn, beans…sheesh. Next thing you know the new hellcare plan will ban the growing of ‘dangerous food’ and you’ll go to jail the same as for pot or executed for growing tobacco.

  • janet H. says:

    My grandmother use to prepare polk salad and mixed them with greens . When I was a young child, living in east Texas. I remember how good they were with onions,silce tomatoes,and cornbread! A few years ago, I use to be able to find them in a local super market in the can vegtable isle. But, I have not seen them any more. If anyone knows where to get them in cans already prepared. Lit me know.

  • Deanna says:

    We used to pick the young part of the stems and take them home to fry up; no boiling, no leaves. Just crunchy goodness. No one died, though the mosquitos nearly killed me.

  • Christine says:

    Hi, I’m 26 years old and have been eating this stuff since I was able to eat solid foods. My parents always boil this for thirty minutes, drain the water, then fried it in a skillet with a bit of batter and olive oil. It’s yummy. Yummm…toxins. lol

  • Shane says:

    My grandfather always told me to avoid the purple parts of the plant, mature leaves and berries. That said, here it is July 29 and I’m eating young poke that I harvested from a friend tonight. My friend weed-eats his on a regular basis so I can harvest it 3-4 times. We soak our poke, rinse, boil once, drain, then add to half cooked kale and finish cooking then drain. We then drizzle the kale/poke with hot bacon grease, add bacon crumbles and maybe a shot of vinegar, toss and enjoy.

    • Mustard and poke grow wild in my daughter’s garden on and off all summer. I just ate mustard and poke that was picked last week and this is August. This is the third picking. Still very good and tender. It keeps growing
      back, so we keep eating it.

  • Angie says:

    I live in Northern Virginia and I just went to Reston VA on the bike trail and picked three bags of the stuff. This is what my family looks forward to in May.

  • LInda Kinczel says:

    I cooked the poke three times and it is mush. In the past I only cooked it twice and only for about 10 minutes each time. But on the side of caution did the three. YUCK! And we love greens.

  • randy downey says:

    where can i get some poke salad greens

  • lisa says:

    have eaten this every since I was a child in mid 40s now so guess toxins didn’t get me ….;) pick them young and tender I do boil down 3 times then drain well and then scramble them in some bacon fat and eggs with salt and pepper…yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

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