POKEWEED

Here’s a properly toxic plant. But during all my years as a gardener, I never learned that touching pokeweed with bare hands was hazardous. Ignorance is bliss, unless that ignorance leads one to eat a toxic plant… raw, because someone calls it 'salad'. Any who have lived through ingestion of poke without severe abdominal distress know this is a green you cook, change waters, and cook again. Call it poke salad, and someone in a crowd will always correct this to poke sallet. (Actually a sallet is the helmet of medieval armour.) The beautiful color of the stem extends all the way down the stalk of this herbaceous plant as summer rolls towards autumn. Birds love the dark berries. In this era of “I-didn’t-plant-this-here-so-it-doesn’t-belong” landscaping, people tend to eradicate pokeweed, but if you can find a place to let one grow it will reward you. Just don’t eat it unless you know what you’re doing. ~K

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