Saturday, October 27, 2012


My client has a grape arbor and I was looking forward to making grape jelly from the grapes. However, morning glories and three enormous poke plants overcame the grape vines and there were very few grapes produced this year. I told him, "I'm going to destroy those poke plants so they won't be there next year." He asked, "You mean they come back?" I said, "Yes, they're a damned weed, so of course, they come back."

At our house, we have just one poke plant and it is enough for us to have "Poke Salad" once a year! Every year I pick a "mess" of greens in honor of my mother who was a great greens-picker! We always combined poke with dandelions, shepherd's sprouts, lamb's quarter, watercress, mustard, plantain, sorrel, and a "little bit of burdock". Poke is a poisonous plant and Mother always warned that the greens had to be washed three times and the water discarded after each washing! As a kid, I liked to PICK, but not to CLEAN. I think watercress is the prettiest plant and love to see it growing.

It is interesting that "poke salad" is not a salad at all, but cooked greens! The correct name is "POKE SALLET" (see the URBAN Dictionary article below. I think the Urban Dictionary is wrong, because we always said "Poke Salad" (not "Polk" or "Sallet") and I know for certain that Tony Joe White's masterpiece is Polk Salad Annie; but the Urban Dictionary Editor was probably just being clever with using Polk Sallet Annie! I had never heard of "sallet" until reading the article, but in talking to a friend who is from the South, she said they always say "sallet" but it's not pronounced in the "French" way!

poke sallet:

The term poke sallet is an old Southern term for the cooked young leaves of the poke weed. Sallet comes from Middle English and refers to a mess (another Old or Middle English term) of greens cooked until tender. The term Polk Salad is a gentrified way of referring to poke sallet, and I'm afraid it reflects our inferiority complex when it comes to standing up for our Southern terminology. We are not making a mush of Polk Salad; actually, we are being true to our English ancestors who settled here a long time ago.

Some folks around here always add a little molasses and fatback to the water when they cook their poke sallet. That's the traditional way.

Don't you just love Tony Joe White's song Polk Sallet Annie?

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