Well, everybody soon will be yelling “those things
are poisonous” about the new growth of pokeweed, and maybe they are, if
you are considering the roots and berries. But if you are thinking in terms
of new growth of the plant (growth up to six inches high), a better word
to describe them is “delicious.”
I have been eating pokeweed shoots in spring since
my grandmother gathered the two lower corners of her apron and went out
with butcher knife to harvest greens for the table. And I’m still here.
That is neither here nor there.
The crux of this column is merely to point out
there are many ways to prepare pokeweed
shoots (the new growth of spring) for the table in absolutely, delicious
manners. And they are all probably as good for the physical qualities of
the bod as a can of Popeye spinach. Maybe better.
A dish coming from a pot that includes a pig hock
and some slices of onion are reason enough to try this kind of eating,
but my favorite recipe is a well-cooked patty wrapped in bacon (or fresh
side) and smothered with a nice dab of my favorite cheese. This is broiled
(a la.corned-beef hash wrapped with bacon) after it is boiled or steamed.
What one does is to make those dining think the
dish is done (and yucky looking) after it is boiled and drained. But it
isn’t done by any stretch of the imagination. With the well-drained cooked
poke shoots in a mixing bowl, you stir in a well-beaten egg (maybe two
eggs). Use seasonings you like. Then, you stir in cracker crumbs (dry bread
will work) until the mixture is of a rather stiff consistency--stiff enough
to maintain patties. Each patty then is circled with bacon or fresh side
(uncured bacon) and “toothpicked” to hold it there. The patties then are
placed on a cookie sheet (or shallow pan) and placed under the broiler.
Each patty is topped with cheese while fresh from the broiler.
Drippings from the pork may be used for making
a garnish sauce (gravy, with chopped mushroom and onion).
Now is the time for poke in central Indiana. Pokeweed
grows wild almost everywhere in the Midwest. The inch-in-diameter white
stalks indicate last year’s patches. It’s an annual plant.
many “morellers” know (especially in Southern Indiana), the poke sprout,
when prepared so, is known as the Poor
To achieve this lofty bit of namenclatural high
jinkery, the sprout is deleaved, split in half lengthwise, and fried just
as morels are fried to a rich, golden brown. That, of course, is dipped
in the 50-50 mix of egg and milk, dredged in a 50-50 mix of cracker meal
and flour, and fried in butter (patted down gently to rest on the skillet).
There are, of course, many other methods (recipes,
if you like) to prepare poke for the table.