Wild Arkansas

September 13, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Poke Berry

Filed under: fruit, health, herbs, Lowell, toxic plants — Tags: , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 1:27 am

Pokeberry or Phytolacca americana grows in nearly any available spot of disturbed land in Arkansas. You will see it sprouting in fields, along hedges and near any pasture border. And when ripe those plump, nearly black berries look oh so sweet.

Don’t dare eat them though. Though the plant does have some medicinal properties, only a skilled practitioner should use this plant.

Historically, the plant has been used for Poke Salet, which is the green leaf boiled several times and mixed with other ingredients. According to some accounts, the leaf must be prepared this way or it will poison any who ingest it.

In Lowell, there are more pokeberry bushes than we know what to do with, though I know what I’d like to do with them–no I don’t do the Salet.

I have to admit the bush is beautiful while the berries are fully ripe, but to be honest the asthetic doesn’t ease my mind when children stop to look at those plump, black pearls.

So I think this year, the poke is going the way of the dead branches we just cut from the apple tree.  Perhaps a public burning.   That’s an idea.

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6 Comments »

  1. I have read that if you eat the leaves of pokeberry (we call it ‘pokeweed’ in the North) while they are very young they are “safe.” Personally, I’d have to be awfully hungry to risk even that.

    Comment by Robinson — September 17, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  2. In most accounts I have read the users of the plant boil the leaves at least twice before ingesting.

    Comment by maturehealth — September 17, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

  3. i ate a pokeberry the other day, not knowing what it was. I am still alive.

    Comment by amy — September 29, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  4. Good thing too… Amy on most accounts I’ve read, many people eat a limited number of pokeberries each year.

    I read that somewhere here in the Ozarks, people believed if you ate one poke berry a year it would help your arthritis.

    Comment by maturehealth — September 29, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

  5. […] americana – Pokeberry, Poke berry Article at […]

    Pingback by Re-post: Toxic Plants in NW Arkansas « Ozarkana — February 8, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  6. We used to eat “poke salad” as we called it. It would be boiled three times in fresh water each time. then mixed in with some eggs. havent had it in a long time but always enjoyed when we were gannoa have some “poke salad”

    Comment by Chris — April 17, 2009 @ 1:23 am


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