other night at a friend's
lakehouse, the sun had slipped beyond the horizon, a breeze began whipping the
tops of the pine trees, and the gang's conversation turned to grave national issues.
* Will George W. Bush bring Texas barbecue to the White House?
* Where can you find a good mess of poke sallet?
about two minutes, we concluded we knew as much about poke sallet as politics
-- mostly because we're in our sixties, and our generation doesn't appreciate
poke sallet with the same intensity as our parents and grandparents.
a shame, too, because poke sallet -- sometimes called poke weed, scoke, inkberry
or gorget -- is considered one of spring's wild delicacies.
a large handsome plant that grows as tall as five feet, usually in disturbed soil.
That's why you're likely to find it in places like cowpens, gardens, and anyplace
else the Texas Agriculture Commissioner has made a speech.
In fact, that's how the lakehouse gang turned to the subject of poke sallet.
A wad of plants was growing in a new flowerbed not far from the
back porch. Our lakehouse host said the flowerbed was where an old cowpen once
about the culinary delights of poke sallet since I was a youngster, but for a
long time I called it poke "salad." My mother probably thought I had a speech
Carnes of Lufkin who was
taught by her mother how to prepare poke sallet, swears by its medicial properties
as well as its taste. "Poke sallet is the best spring tonic you can find; it gets
your blood going," she said.
Each year, she and her husband Mack, an auctioneer, start scouring the countryside
around Lufkin for the iron-rich
prefers young plants or the tips of older plants. "If a plant is big, say knee-high,
it's likely to be tough and bitter," she said.
She washes the greens thoroughly, adds a little salt, and cooks the greens until
they're tender. She then pours off the juice, adds more water along with salt
and pepper, and cooks the batch again.
She pours off the juice a second time, adds more water, throws in some additional
seasonings such as bacon grease or pieces of pork, and cooks the greens a third
time. She occasionally adds a pinch or two of sugar to cut the bitter taste.
momma told me you had to cook poke sallet three times or you were liable to get
poisoned," said Marie. "I'm not sure that's right, but I'm not about to take a
the greens atop a plateful of scrambled eggs. "There isn't a better country dish
in East Texas," she said. "It's
a lot like spinach in taste and texture."
Marie's method is the most accepted method of eating poke sallet, I've also heard
of fried poke stalks, poke soup, poke-tuna roll and poke pickles. But I haven't
found them on any cafe menu --even in the remotest corner of East
lakehouse gang would be delighted to know that a nice wine can be made from pokeberries
although some folklore sources contend the berries are poisonous.
antidote to the poison, I am told, is to drink lots of vinegar and eat about a
pound of lard. That doesn't sound too bad. I've eaten worse in some Dallas restaurants.
Despite the poisonous theory, some older folks swear that pokeberry wine is good
for rheumatism. I'm tempted to keep the wine theory a secret from the lakehouse
gang. They'll do anything to get a cheap glass of liquor--even digging up the