Edible Plants: Pokeweed in the Spring

“You may even see birds get tipsy on the berries.” (Angier 1974: 170)


Pokeweed:  A Spring wild edible

Phytolacca americana

Family – Phytolaccaceae

Other names –  Pigeonberry, Garget, Poke, Scoke, Skokum, Caokum, Inkberry, Poran, Virginia Poke, Pokeberry, Pokum, Inkberry, and Cancerjalap (Martin 1972: 50; Angier 1974: 170)

Brief historical background of Pokeweed:

  • Native Americans found pokeweed delicious
  • First post-Columbus adventurers even took the startings back to England and southern Europe, where the vegetable became popular
  • Soldiers during the Civil War cut his own quill pen from the wing feather of a turkey, then squeezed some of the magenta juice from the ripe berries of pokeweed to use as his ink.  Some letters are still legible and seen in museums today.  What a strong, enduring color! (Angier 1974: 170)

Location/Distribution – perennial that flourishes in the eastern half of the United States except along the Canadian border, west to Texas and south to the tropics (Angier 1974: 170) However, this website, as far as I can see, is not congruent with this description http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=phama3

Found – on roadsides, cultivated fields, and waste places (Peterson 1977: 46)


I found a wonderful patch of pokeweed at home!  Now I have an eye for spotting it..at least the younger shoots for now.


  •                 Can grow as high as a person
  •                 Non-woody and hollow stemmed
  •                 Treelike in form (Martin 1972: 50)

Leaves – shaped like lanceheads, have stems on one end and points on the other; scattered, smooth on both sides, wavy edged, are up to ten inches long (Angier 1974: 170)

Stalks – mature stalks poisonous to us when they take on purplish cast

Berries – Reddish/magenta juice from berries, may be used for ink or dye, birds can get tipsy, poisonous to us

Roots – bitter, cathartic, emetic, somewhat narcotic, poisonous to us

My Mama holding a bundle of pokeweed for our lunch.  How glorious!


Birds and animals:  

Birds = berries loved by mourning dove, robin, blue jay, cardinal, yellow-breasted chat, rose-breasted grosbeak, yellowbellied sapsucker, cedar waxwing, and the golden-fronted woodpecker,

Animals = fox, opossums, raccoons, and the white-footed mice eat the fruit too (Angier 1974: 170)


  1. Young shoots only when they are no more than about 8 inches tall
  2. When collecting the shoots, be very careful.  Peel or discard any shoots tinged with red (Peterson 1977: 46).
  3. Excellent boiled for 20-30 minutes in at least 2 changes of water.  Good sprinkled with lemon juice and salt.
  4. Served like:  asparagus, cooked green, pickle (Peterson 1977: 46)

Remember…Poisonous parts:  Roots, seeds, and when stems and leaves are mature are dangerously poisonous (Peterson 1977: 46)

Our feast:

This Spring, on March 8th, my Mama and I found some young pokeweed shoots…

And then we picked them…

And washed them and cooked them…in 2 changes of water!  Til tender.

And then feasted on what was the most tender, fresh, yummy wild green.  It reminded me of asparagus, but better.

Easter meal with the family at my grandma’s…see the pokeweed!?

Recommendations: sprinkle some fresh lemon juice on your pokeweed greens and add a little salt.

Thank you for reading!  I hope this posting was informative, helpful, or interesting to you.  Let me know any thoughts or suggestions please. 🙂


Works Cited:

Angier, Bradford

1974 Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Harrisburg, Pa: Stackpole Books.

Martin, Alexander C.

1972 A Golden Guide: Weeds. New York: Golden Press.

Peterson, Lee

1977 A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.


7 responses to “Edible Plants: Pokeweed in the Spring

  1. Emily, This is your teacher librarian mama telling you to give the full source of Peterson and Angier in MLA format!

  2. I love this post!!! So much interesting information, and it makes me so happy to see the pictures 😀 and seeing you guys enjoy nature’s goodness. You are so beautiful, Emily. See you soon I HOPE!!! It’s the summmmerrrtime ahh yes.

    xoxoxox! I LOVE YOU

    p.s. I passed on a little award to you in my last post 🙂 also, if you are ever up to doing a guest post on my blog I’d love for you to share your insights on there.

    • Katharina!! ahhh thank you my darling! what a sweet sweet response. I think you are so beautiful. Suummmmmertiiiimmme and I hope I see you too!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxo I LOVE YOU too!! p.s. thank you for the little award! I’m going to look at it again very soon. I been so busy. Your reply reminded me it’s blog reading time and blog making time! I’d love to do a guest post..I would be absolutely honored. would you do one on mine as well someday?! 🙂 much much love

  3. Emily!
    I am the luckiest man alive in the world, I love you! I love this blog too, it makes me miss you more than anything! You are BEAUTIFUL!

  4. Yes I do as a matter of fact!
    I think they taste delicious, and we never need to eat Asparagus while it is in season!

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