Pokeweed growing in a pot in my yard
About six weeks ago a plant appeared in an empty pot in my back yard. Margie identified it as a "Polkweed". She told me the leaves can be eaten if you boil them three times, pouring off the water each time and replenishing with fresh water. According to Margie, some people enjoy eating the leaves mixed with scrambled eggs.
According to Wiki: "Phytolacca americana (pokeweed) is used as a folk medicine and as food, although all parts of it must be considered toxic unless, as folk recipes claim, it is "properly prepared". The root is never eaten and cannot be made edible. Berries are toxic when raw but cooked juice is reportedly potable, whereas the seeds are supposed to remain toxic after cooking. Pokeberry juice is added to other juices for jelly by those who believe it can relieve the pain of arthritis. In a traditional Cherokee recipe for fried poke stalks, young stalks are harvested while still tender, peeled to remove most of the toxin, washed, then cut into pieces and fried like okra with cornmeal.
Young pokeweed leaves boiled three times to reduce the toxin, discarding the water after each boiling, results in "poke salit" or "poke salad" or "poke sallet" and is occasionally available commercially. Many authorities advise against eating pokeweed even after thrice boiling, as traces of the toxin may still remain. All agree pokeweed should never be eaten uncooked.
Since pioneer times pokeweed has been used as a folk remedy to treat many ailments. Dried berries were ingested whole as a treatment for boils, taken one berry per day for seven days Grated pokeroot was used by Native Americans as a poultice to treat inflammations and rashes of the breast Independent researchers are investigating phytolacca's use in treating AIDS and cancer patients. . . ."
According to most sources, pokeweed is an easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils and full sun or partial shade. The stout erect stalk is tall, growing to 10 feet or more, smooth and branching, turning deep red or purple as the berries ripen and the plant matures. The root is conical, large and fleshy, covered with a thin brown bark. Leaves are about 5 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide, simple, alternate, ovate-lanceolate, and smooth. The flowers which appear from July to September are long-stalked clusters and each has 5 whitish petals with green centers. The fruit is a rich deep purple round berry, containing a rich crimson juice.
Pokeweed May Offer a Cure for Cancer
Other research on pokeweed revealed the root is alterative, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, cathartic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic and purgative. It is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis and diseases related to a compromised immune system it has potential as an anti-AIDS drug.
Some of the chemical constituents in the plant are triterpenoid saponins, lectins, antiviral proteins and many phytolaccagenic acids, which are not completely understood. New research has revealed that a possible CURE for Childhood Leukemia called (B43-PAP) is found in the common Pokeweed. Anti-B43-pokeweed antiviral protein, B43-PAP, PAP is a pokeweed toxin. The B43 carries the weapon--the PAP--to the leukemia cells.
It has been touted as a smart weapon. In one study 15 out of 18 children who had participated had attained remission. The following is part of a repot from Parker Hughes Institute: The two parts of this drug are the B43 antibody (or anti-CD19) and the pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP) immunotoxin, a natural product in the pokeweed plant. B43 is designed to recognize specific B-cell leukemia cells just as natural antibodies attack and recognize germs. When the antibody finds a leukemia cell, it attaches and B43 delivers the other part of the drug, PAP. Inside the cell, PAP is released by the antibody and inactivates the ribosomes that make the proteins the cell needs to survive. With the cell unable to produce proteins, the specific leukemia cell is killed. More than 100 patients have been treated with B43-PAP and shown only minimal side effects.
Caution is advised as the whole plant, but especially the berries, is poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
A beautiful red ink and a dye are obtained from the fruit. The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute.
Social Aspects of Pokeweed - the food of poor Southern people
In 1970 Tony Joe White wrote a song titled Polk Salad Annie. This brings another question to the forefront: Some sources refer to the plant as "polkweed" and other sources call it "pokeweed". I wonder why?
Here are a few of the lyrics from the song, Polk Salad Annie:
"If some of ya'll never been down south too much
I'm gonna tell you a little bit about this
So that you'll understand what I'm talkin' about
Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods
And in the fields looks somethin' like a turnip green
And everybody calls it polk salad, polk salad
Used to know a girl lived down there
And she'd go out in the evenings and pick her a mess of it
Carry it home and cook it for supper
'Cause thats about all they had to eat, but they did all right . . . "
Since it grows all over the DFW area, it's somewhat comforting to know that those of us who live in this area may never have to go hungry. The other day when I was over at Charlies' I saw several large pokeweed plants in his front yard. Charlie says he won't even try to eat any, but I think I will. Who knows? Perhaps someday we might be glad to have pokeweed to eat. I may as well develop a taste for it now.
Pokeweed Growing in Charlie's Yard