Poke is a weed that grows all over the Eastern and Southern United States. I see it everywhere in Providence; it is very beautiful, and very toxic. It has deep green leaves and white flowers and juicy-looking purple berries, all of which are very poisonous if you eat them unawares. (The berries can be used to make ink; the Founding Fathers used pokeberry ink to write the Constitution.)



The leaves are (just barely) edible, if you cook and rinse them a couple of times. Some say rinse them twice; some say three times. You used to be able to buy the leaves canned, but not so much anymore.



There’s a song, by Tony Joe White, in 1968, that tells the whole story:





I don’t want any poke salad. Then again: maybe I want to know what it tastes like. Even if it’s poisonous.



I am just perverse that way.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

2 Responses to Poke

  1. starproms says:

    Well I never knew that! Thank goodness you told me. I’m coming to Tennessee very soon. I expect quite a few people died before they discovered that leaf and berry was poisonous. I don’t think we have it in England. What’s the botanical name of it?

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