Spring Greens II
-Many of the wild spring greens are coming to the end of their harvestable time as the days are getting hotter and the plants are flowering and going to seed. At this point, many become very bitter and less palatable - though many health-conscious people believe bitter greens are especially packed with nutrition.
There is one wild green that is just now reaching peak gathering time at the lower elevations. Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana ) has now grown to the optimal six to eight inches and is just waiting to be sliced off at ground level, brought home and prepared for the dinner table. Care needs to be taken with poke, however, as it should only be gathered young (most guidebooks say no taller than eight inches) and needs to be boiled three times before eating.
Long- time connoisseurs of this fine green sometimes push these recommendations, gathering it when it is nearly a foot high and only boiling it twice. Too, some books say to only eat the leaves after boiling but for those who have been enjoying this green for years, it is common to throw the stem and leaves into the boiling water and consume both.
As with any wild-gotten food, it is best to gather it with someone whose expertise you trust and follow the recommended preparation guidelines until you know your digestive system is happy with the new addition.
The berries should not be eaten. Ever. They are poison. Interestingly the juice from the berries was used as ink by soldiers writing home during the war between the states and the words are still legible today.
Poke weed is one of the most delicious greens and, due to its size, can be gathered in quantity in a relatively short time once a good patch is located.
It makes super good quiche, can be thrown into stir-fries or casseroles and has a delicate enough flavor that it can be added to smoothies for extra nutrition. Basically, pokeweed can be used any recipe that calls for spinach - except raw salads.
It freezes in ziplock bags extremely well and can provide healthy greens throughout the winter.
Pokeweed us a perennial plant and has a massive taproot. Though maligned by gardeners when it comes up in landscape beds, pokeweed has many valuable aspects. With its deep root, it pulls up minerals deep in the soil, another beneficial aspect to eating it. It grows in fields, along roadsides and tends to appear in disturbed areas.
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