I discovered two stalks of pokeweed growing up through my hellebores. Nearby a smaller one was growing alongside my columbines.
“Those are still young enough to eat,” I announced to my husband who was standing nearby dumping grass from the lawn mower bag. “The stalks are still limber,” I said. “We can have poke salad with the leaves and have fried poke stalks too.”
He shook his head and gave me that don’t-make-me-eat-that look. Ignoring his obvious disapproval I continued.
“Haven’t had poke salad since I was a kid. Mom used to fix it for us every spring. ” I bent over and broke off the stalks as close to the root as possible.
My husband sighed and mumbled something about turnip greens, a reference he makes anytime I talk about lima beans or other “down home” recipes.
I ignored his negative attitude and got busy in my kitchen.
Once all the outer skin was removed, I placed the stalks on the cutting board and sliced them diagonally. My mom always cut them straight, but I had such a small sample that I decided that a diagonal cut might add more surface and make each slice a little bigger.
I rolled the stalks in cornmeal and placed them in a skillet of canola oil with a little butter. While they started frying I took the green leaves from the pot. I placed them in a clear container so I could see the water that was still surrounding them. Satisfied that the leaves had cooked out a sufficient amount of “green”, I rinsed the leaves with cold water until the water ran clear.
After rinsing the leaves thoroughly, I pressed all the moisture I could out of them. Then I lightly greased a skilled and dropped the leaves onto it. While they simmered in the oil I beat an egg then dropped it onto the leaves in the skillet. I stirred until the egg had cooked completely. Because I had so little plant to start with, I ended up with more egg than salad. The proportions should actually be more salad than egg.
By then my stalks were finished frying too so I dipped them out and laid them onto a paper towel. I had also prepared small slices of grilled chicken breast, great northern beans, and fried hush puppies. It was a combination I knew would go well with my poke stalks and poke salad.
“This isn’t too bad,” my husband admitted once he cautiously tried a little of each. “I don’t think I’d want it all the time, but it’s pretty good, especially these little fried things. I’m surprised.”
“It’s only good if you get it early,” I said. “Once the stalks get woody its unedible. But if we have it come up next year, you can have another mess next spring.” I smiled.
- Polk Salad and Cassava- Boyace Van Harlan Jr., PhD (imageinme.wordpress.com)