Thursday, April 23, 2009


The use of pokeweed dates back to pioneer times and was used as a folk remedy for various ailments- acne, tonsillitis, weight loss, and rheumatism. It was also popular among Native American Indians who used it to treat inflammation, rashes, as a laxative and to induce vomiting. Pokeweed goes by many names- ink berry, pigeon-berry, bears’ grape, crowberry, garget, nightshade, and red-ink plant.

People have consumed the leaves, which according to recipes call for them to be boiled at least three times and drained to rid them of toxins. (Ever heard the song “Polk Salad Annie”?)

Some sites claim that the berries are also ok to eat if cooked, but I remain skeptical. It seems most information I’ve come across say not to consume any part of this plant due to those toxins contained in the roots, leaves, stems, and berries- specifically phytolaccatoxin and phytolaccigenin which are toxic to mammals including humans.

Birds though are immune to the toxins and gorge themselves on the berries making them the main dispersers of the plant’s seeds.

Some other interesting facts about pokeweed:

~ The ink used to write the Declaration of Independence and letters home written during the Civil War was made from the fermented juice of pokeweed.

~ Native American Indians used its juices as a dye to decorate horses, dye cloth, and as a face paint.

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Blogger new york city garden said...

When I was a kid we made "wine" from poke weed berries. Never drank it fortunately. I also made spears from the tall stalk. Cut down, remove side stems, sry in sun, insert stone in top slit, decorate. It was good to be a kid.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Camera Trap Codger said...

It's a great potherb. We used to harvest it behind our house in VA every spring ever since Ewell Gibbons enlightened us with his book "Stalking the wild asparagus". You gotta pick the tender new shoots (pinkish colored), and they still have a bit of kick (they're a bit of a physic), but they ARE delicious.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Jace Stansbury said...

You're a braver soul than I Codger!!

6:24 PM  

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