From the bud comes the flowers, From the flower comes the berries, From the berries feeds does the bird, From the bird seeds are spread, From the seeds new trees grow, From the trees buds sprout into life, From life comes more life ad finem.
In this neck of the woods, some folks eat “poke salat” in the Spring — basically the stir-fried greens of the wild pokeweed plant. However, because this plant is contains tannins and is quite toxic to humans, the leaves must be repeatedly boiled and rinsed before ingestion. If you’re unfortunate enough to eat any part of the pokeweed without taking adequate cautionary measures, the old-fashioned remedy is to drink lots of vinegar and eat a pound of lard! The pokeweed gets its name from the Native American word “puccoon” which means a plant used for staining or dyeing. They also used it as a laxative and to induce vomiting! Yet certain animals (birds, white-footed mouse, oppossum, red fox and stinkbugs — yes, stinkbugs) have no such limitation and can feast on poke to their hearts’ content.
The Pokeweed, sometimes called Pokeberry or Inkberry, is native to eastern North America. From July -September, the plant blossoms. Those white things you see are not petals but sepals which will cradle the fruit in Autumn.
When Autumn arrives the green stems and sepals turn a bright pinkish-purple, and the dark purple berries contains large seeds that are glossy and black. Animals eat the berries and after walking or flying around for a while they expel them as waste, thus scattering the seeds far from the parent plant.
Pokeweed dies to the ground in the winter and sends up new shoots each spring.
Here’s a great little video on all things pokeweed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQuoErwKzUY
You can make a lovely ink out of pokeberries. Here’s the recipe: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2015/09/17/t-magazine/pokeberry-ink/s/17tmag-pokeberry-slide-2WP8.html
Pokeberries can also be used to dye yarn, fabric, lace, Easter eggs — you name it! Here’s that recipe: http://botanicalcolors.com/2011/10/30/pokeberry-dyeing/
As always, after a hike we take time to record our observations — either by sketching or painting, in narrative form, or even in poetry.
And even the moms get in on the act! (Did she plan to wear a pokeberry-colored tee?)