Who doesn't recognize this pretty plant? Anyone? Yes, I'll bet there are many reading this who do NOT recognize it or who have not ever even heard of Poke Weed-Salat. That would generally be the northerners.
I was a northerner who had never heard of Poke Salat when I initially moved here in 2001. My mother-in-law told me what it was. She is a southerner, born and bred. She probably thought I was pretty dumb, not knowing or ever hearing of poke weed?!
Boy, what a pretty plant with those red stems and black berries, I thought. That was then, this is now. And I have changed my thoughts, considerably.
I do still think poke weed is a pretty plant. It really is. A big, prolific, red stemmed, big leaved, hard to get rid of plant. Oh yeah, it is edible. Did I say it is edible? Only if you eat the leaves and only when they are young, very young. According to the following website: http://kaweahoaks.com/html/poke.html, poke weed is an herb. It's latin name is Phytolacca americana, and it is native to the eastern United States. That must be why it adapts so well in my garden.
Lola tells me you pick the leaves young and boil them three times, changing the water each time. During the last boil you can add seasonings to the water and treat the poke salat leaves just like any other greens, such as turnip greens. I have never been brave enough to eat this plant though it grows well in my garden. Since I am a woman who agrees to try everything at least once, I will try poke weed at some point. Probably when my mother-in-law cooks it. (If she ever does)
I sometimes let poke weed grow for awhile. This plant emerges early in the season and grows rapidly. I have seen it growing to over 6 feet tall! But it only reached that stage prior to me moving in to this house; when the yard was very neglected. I pretty much stay on it now. When I am kind and let it grow, it will only grow until my other plants fill in and only as long as it is does not have ripe berries. The berries are a problem because the birds eat them, then disperse them all around the area. I can't figure that one out since the berries are toxic. Normally, birds and humans can eat pretty much the same berries.
Once you have it in your garden it can be difficult to get rid of. I have found it fairly easy to pull when it is young, but it does return from the roots each year. Those roots are the bear. They are hard to pull once it is firmly established and has gained some size. Even Roundup doesn't always kill it. Sigh.
So, for all you Northerners, what do you think of our Poke Salat? Like Lola and Nina said, anyone from Tennessee knows what it is. Mr. Fix-it's co-worker, Robert, told a funny story about Poke Salat. We were all meeting at a local pizza joint; which was very crowded. The parking lot was over full. As Robert waited for a parking place, he was incredulous. He actually had to wait for two women to fawn over a Poke Salat weed growing in the cracks of the parking lot! The friend said, "Come on, it's just stupid Poke Salat!" He couldn't believe people would find it fascinating AND make him wait for their parking space. To be in awe of a common weed growing in a parking lot?! Obviously he is from the south (Kentucky), and the two ladies had to be northerners. Being a southerner, he never let on to them he was a bit mad about having to wait.
in the garden....hunting down those ole poke weeds.