On 11/26/07, Michael Harrison
And here is my response:
I have Amish friends who use the berries, sans seeds, to make a pokeberry wine that is very effective against arthritis, and another friend who treats his arthritis by eating five poke berries a day. He worked up to it, starting with one pokeberry and gradually increased his intake till he got to the five, and has stayed there for several years.
I also regularly hear of folks from Appalachia making poke berry pies by straining the seeds out like you suggest. However, as a wild food educator, who is dealing with inexperienced people, I would never dare to suggest thatmy students make pies out of pokeweed. It is amazing the liberties neophytes take with knowledge given to them, and how badly they can screw up even the most crystal clear directions they are given.
It is like that game where you whisper something simple in the ear of a person at one end of the line, and have them repeat it to the next person, and they to the next, and so on down the line. What that "simple something" sounds like by the time it reaches the end of the line is almost never anything like what it started out as.
To make sure students in my workshops have learned the plants I have introduced them to, I have them make recipes out of the plants. They have to gather the ingredients, and then have their identity confirmed by me or one of my assistants before they are allowed to use them in their recipe. You wouldn't believe what people think are lambsquarters, or violets, or mallows. Or, surprisingly enough, dandelions. It also tests me on how well I have taught. Student mistakes often reflect on what I have NOT taught them that I should have, so it gives me a chance for a "redo" with everybody, especially when it comes to distinctions between plants with leaves that superficially look similar, such as mallow, ground ivy, violets and young garlic mustard. This is one issue which is relatively easy to correct, but there is a more serious issue that some of my professional wild food educator colleagues tend to ignore, and that is, what is it safe to teach newcomers to foraging.
It is one thing to experiment when foraging for yourself, but another thing again to teach others to forage. The old adage that you need to learn English grammar thoroughly, so you can write according to the rules, before you take liberties with the rules to create specific effects, applies equally to teaching foraging. Live experimentally if you want, but teach conservatively. Make sure your students leave your classes and workshops knowing the "rules." Then if they want to break them by using such things as poke berries because, from their own research, they have heard that others do it, it is up to them. They are on their own.
There is so much good food out there, in practically all places and at practically all seasons of the year, that others have experimented on and determined to always be safe, that no one will ever go hungry by using it. Plan ahead for winter, and store greens in the dry powdered form so that you can get your vitamins and minerals from them all year round.
Another contribution from the Whatever it is worth department.
Peter A. Gail