PokePolk Sallet (Phytolacca americana}

use of this photo wa granted by © Daniel Reed

Polk Sallet, Poke salad, inkberry as Phytolacca Americana is know by in Oklahoma State is a widely used edible green. Polk is a coarse herbaceous weed growing up to ten feet. It has single alternate leaves, tapered at both ends, with crumpled edges. The stems are often widely branched, pink or red in color. The flowers are white, in long clusters at the ends of the stems. They develop into hanging dark purple berries. The berries are juicy, shiny, dark purplish black, and about a 0.25 in (0.6 cm) in diameter. Pokeberry is an herbaceous perennial that dies back in winter and grows quickly in spring to 8-12 ft (2.4-3.7 m) tall with a spread of 3-6 ft (0.9-01.8 m) or more. Seeds are spread by local birds. The birds are not effected by the poisonous seed of this plant due to it's hard coating.

Constituents Phytolaccic acid, phytolaccine, calcium malate, resin, starch, wax, gum, tannin, mucilage. Vitamin A 174% Vitamin C 136% Iron 6% Calcium 5%


The informatin presented in this article is offered strictly for informative and educational purposes. If you have any health related issues or questions consult your personal physcian before using any of the recipes or other information contained in this article.

Clinical signs of toxicity In humans: The eating of limited quantities of fresh poke, (uncooked), may cause retching or vomiting after two hours or more. These signs may be followed by dyspnea, perspiration, spasms, severe purging, prostration, tremors, watery diarrhea and vomiting (sometimes bloody) and, sometimes, convulsions. In severe poisonings, symptoms are weakness, excessive yawning, slowed breathing, fast heartbeat, dizziness, and possibly seizures, coma and death.

Edible Green

As a green it is usually brought to a boil three times, changing the water each time for 20 to 30 minutes. Many in Oklahoma bring it to a boil for 5 minutes, 2 times. Some will add baking soda to the first boil. After it is cooked it is sometimes fried with bacon and onions or butter and salt and pepper. It also can be used much like spinach in quiches, frittas and dips. This green was widely used by early homesteaders, relocated Native Americans and African Americans in Oklahoma. This green was a welcomed food source during the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Polk was canned for use during the winter months. You can still find this commercially canned in the southern United States. Native Americans shared the use of this plant with those who first settled the United States. Jelly has been made from the berry, but it is our opinion this practice is not wise due to the risk of toxic properties.


Polk Sallet

1 1/2 lb. Poke Leaves & Stalks 5 Thick Slices Salt Bacon 1/2 t. Salt 6-8 Eggs

Select tender young polk greens, include some tender stalks, not over 6 inches long. Cut stalks like you would celery. Clean well rinsing several times.

Parboil and discard water. Add fresh water and 1 slice of bacon. Cook until tender. Fry rest of bacon until crisp and set aside.

Add greens, salt and eggs to drippings, cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

Emeril's Poke Salad With Sesame Vinaigrette Excerpted from: The Best Recipes The indredients are:

2 tbsp Plus 4 teaspoons sesame oil 4 tbsp Soy sauce 2 tbsp Honey 2 tsp Minced shallots 1 tsp Minced garlic 1 tsp Chopped cilantro 2 tbsp Black sesame seeds 3 tbsp Crushed macadamia nuts 1 cup Seaweed, coarsely chopped 2 Red chili peppers, seeded And minced 1/2 cup Julienned Maui onions 2 lb Sashimi-grade ahi fillet, Cut into bite-size pieces 1 Head julienned radicchio Long chives 1 tbsp Chopped chives Info: In a mixing bowl, whisk the first seven ingredients together. Season with dressing with salt and pepper. In a mixing bowl, mix the nuts, seaweed, peppers, and onions together. Add the ahi and remaining sesame oil. Mix the salad very well. Season with salt and pepper. To assemble, lay the radicchio in the center of a platter. Pile the salad in the center of the radicchio. Drizzle the sauce over the salad. Garnish with long and chopped chives.

Yield: 6 servings ( EMERIL LIVE SHOW #EMIA09)


The rootstock is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute. Cut the root into small pieces and simmer it in boiling water to obtain the soap.


The berries of this plant has been used as a dye. Reports have shown the lovely red color will turn to a brown in time. Native Americans used the berry to paint their horses. The United States Declaration of Independence was written in fermented pokeberry juice.


Cherokee would use crushed up polk berries for fishing. They would crush them up and put them in a small slow moving stream, then walk down stream and pick up the fish who floated to the top.

Herb Parts used, berries and roots.

Those who have not been properly trained in its use, pokeweed should be considered dangerous and possibly deadly.

Polk juice has been added to other juice to treat arthritis. Topical treatments have been used for acne and other ailments. Grated pokeroot was used by Native Americans as a poultice to treat inflammations and rashes of the breast. Some dry the berry for herbal use. The seed is toxic and has caused death.

The root is alterative, anodyne, antiinflammatory, 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. It has been used for the flu.

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.


Scientific Studies

Poison Plant Data Base

== Information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. Any decision to use or ingest this plant is an individual responsibility == .