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Poke Salad, Poke Greens, Poke Salat, Poke Weed

Poke Salad, Poke Greens, Poke Salat, Poke Weed

Poke Salad, Poke Greens, Poke Salat, Poke Weed

Since there is not much going on around here while wild ramps are out of season (seeds should be available soon!), so I thought I would make a quick post about another favorite food of us mountain folk.

Pokeweeds, also known as poke, pokebush, pokeberry, pokeroot, polk salad, polk salat, and inkberry is another spring tradition around these parts.

As this plant can be toxic if not prepared correctly, precautions must be taken to ensure it is fit for consumption.

Young pokeweed leaves can be boiled three times to reduce the toxin, discarding the water after each boiling. The result is known as poke salit, or Poke salad, and is occasionally available commercially.

Many authorities advise against eating pokeweed even after thrice boiling, as traces of the toxin may still remain.

For many decades, Poke salad has been a spring favorite West Virginia cuisine, despite campaigns by doctors who believed pokeweed remained toxic even after being boiled.

My Granny and I have been eating this stuff for years, and I bet her Granny used to eat it also. It tastes a lot like spinach. I like taking a heaping spoonful, putting it in a bowl, giving it a good dose of salt and pepper, and then smothering it with vinegar. Tasty!

Here is a snippet of an article I found online with some useful information:

Pokeweed is a perennial herb that is native to North America, South America, East Asia, and New Zealand. It was introduced to European settlers by Native American Indians. Now you can find pokeweed cultivated in Europe and throughout the world.

This plant grows from 1 ft.-10 ft. tall. All parts of the plant are poisonous to cattle, horses, swine, and humans if eaten raw; the roots being the most poisonous. Swine are able to pull up the roots (even though they grow deep) and eat that part of the plant but it usually kills them. The pokeweed plant contains several toxins as well as histamines.

Birds eat the berries and because the berries are swallowed whole the birds aren’t harmed. Then when the birds do what comes naturally to them, new plants will spring up in the meadows and fields.

There are many uses for the pokeweed plant such as the juice from the berries are used in crimson dyes and in the earlier days of America, ink was made from the berry juice. People who work with natural fibers now will use pokeweed berry juice to dye the fabrics they create. The food industry still uses the pokeweed berries to make red food coloring.

The berries and dried roots are used in herbal remedies even today. Research shows that pokeweed contains compounds that seem to enhance the immune system. Young pokeweed shoots contain low levels of toxins and were used by Native Americans and European settlers as food.

Research has shown that the pokeweed has anti-cancer properties in animal studies. More research needs to done on humans to see if the same results will prove to be a positive step in cancer treatment. Pokeweed has an antiviral protein (PAP) that is believed when used in certain formulas may be useful against cancer cells that depend upon hormones for their growth; such as the cells from breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.

There are many claims that supplements made from the pokeweed and taken internally will help treat rheumatoid arthritis, joint inflammation, breast abscesses, and a host of other conditions.

If you have never picked poke salad, take someone who is familiar with the plant. They will also tell you how to pick and prepare it.

Most people will wash the leaves, put in boiling water for 5 min., then pour off the water, and repeat this 2 or 3 times. After the last boiling they will squeeze excess water from the leaves. Pour a little oil in the  skillet, put the poke salad in the hot oil, then add eggs as many as you like, salt, and pepper to taste.

If you’ve never eaten poke salad, always taste cautiously to make sure there is no allergy. Probably less than 1% of the world would be allergic to pokeweed and it would only be important if you were in that group.

Now That Ramp Season Is Over, Try Our Ramp Seasoning

Now that the 2014 Ramp Season is behind us, make sure you try our ramp seasoning.  People are loving this stuff. It is a great way to extend the flavor of ramps for a few more months, and try it on some great new recipes. I personally love sprinkling it on a couple of fried eggs. It’s great in tomato soup too! So give it a shot, it’s great stuff!

ramp seasoning

A little goes a long way!

Baby Pheasants While Ramp Digging

Today was the last day of the year we went out digging for fresh ramps. The last orders with ship on 5/5. We have enough to fill all of last weeks orders and we dug even more in order to make several more batches of Ramp Seasoning. If you missed out on fresh ramps this year, do try the seasoning. It’s tastes great and can be used in a variety of dishes.

I have a bit of a story to tell you about todays adventure. My wife and I were walking up a small embankment when a Pheasant or Ruffed Grouse flew right up in front of us. It went about 20 feet, hit the ground and started flopping around like it was wounded. I knew from experience that a mother with small young would do this to lure a predator away from her young if she felt they were threatened. I looked down at my feet and there were three teeny tiny itty bitty chicks laying motionless. One was literally at the tip of my shoe. I had nearly stepped on it. Its hatch mates were only a few inches away from it. I pointed them out to the wife and we ooohed and ahhhed over them for a few minutes. The mother was still flapping in the leaves trying to divert our attention.

I snapped a picture of them before we continued on our way. When we got up a little higher, we watched momma come back, rustle up her young’uns, and quickly lead them in another direction. I hope we didn’t disturb the momma or the baby pheasants too much. Spring is such a wonderful time of the year to be out and about in the woods.

Baby Pheasants

One Baby Pheasant

Baby Pheasants 2

Another Baby Pheasant

You can click on the images to make them larger. Cute little guys, aren’t they?

The Appalachian Delicacy

This is the last week to buy ramps from me. The last shipment of fresh ramps for the year will be going out on 5/5.  We are lucky we got as many weeks in as we did this year. It turned out to be the longest season we’ve had in a couple of years. So, if you want more ramps, order them now.  Also, the ramp seasoning was a hit. I knew that our supply would sell out, but I didn’t realize it would sell out in less than 12 hours. We are currently in the process of making more, and I hope to have it ready by this weekend. Keep checking the ramp seasoning page for an update of when it is back in stock. Or, sign up for the mailing list over on the right and I will send everyone an email when it is ready.

One more thing. A young lady asked me if she could write a few words about her and her friends ramp digging, and put it here. I have no problem with that and I didn’t figure you guys would either. Enjoy her story!

Everybody talks about the pungent odor of ramps, but digging the Appalachian delicacy produces a different set of concerns: My legs are tired. My back is hurting. I am hungry. My nose is running. And my burlap bag is filling very, very slowly. I have come to this hillside with a group of friends who had eaten ramps at a neighbor’s house and wanted to try to dig them up and make them themselves.

I had gone before and wanted to help them out. I led them across a rocky slope and into the fog where the hillside is covered by long, green leaves. Those are the ramps. They almost look like thick hair there are so many. The hillside is steep and chilly and damp. It is a hike to get up to where the ramps actually are and we are all slightly winded by the time we make it up to our spot.

Some people think it’s easy to dig up a wild ramp but it is not! You are bent over and crouched, whacking away at them. My friends have never done this before and didn’t quite know what to expect. Luckily I thought to remind them to dress warmly and wear sturdy shoes. My friend Marie is winded before we are even halfway up the slope.

When we finally get to where the most ramps are, they are all amazed by how many there are. I let them start digging and go around and give them tips to make it easier on them. Our goal is to fill one sack each because if we trudged all the way up here then we wanted to make sure it was worth it. At the beginning we were joking and laughing about the task in front of us but now that the work is under way we’ve gotten a little quieter. Oh of course we still laugh when Laurel falls on her butt in the mud with a ramp in her hand. She laughs with us and I realize that doing this with friends makes it way more fun!

As we each fill our own sack we help each other with the rest of them, trying to spread out the work. By the time they’re all filled we have all fallen in the mud at least once (or 4 times in Kari’s case!), we’re soaked through our clothes and really, really hungry. And we still had to get these bags back down the hill! Marie tried rolling hers. I just sat back and let her try even though I knew that didn’t work. After her ramps started to fall out she caught the bag and looked at me for directions. I slung the bag over my shoulder and started walking down the hill.

The girls all followed me, one even started whistling “Hi ho hi ho” from Snow White. By the time we got to the bottom we were muddier still! We washed off our hands in the creek and piled the bags (and ourselves) into our cars. We definitely deserved a nice hot lunch at the local diner after this trip!

Appalachian Delicacy

More Ramps Shipping Out On 4/28

Hi folks.

Just a quick update to let you know that we have another shipment of ramps going out on 4/28. The ramps are quite large now which seems to be what a lot of you prefer.

Also, I have located a video that I think many of you will enjoy. These are MY people! Proud of my culture. Proud of my heritage. (Well…most of it anyway!)

And one other thing. For the largest list of ramp festivals on the internet, please visit The King of Stink. On the left hand side of their page, there are several links to ramp festivals in various states.

Making Friends While Ramp Digging

I had a new neighbor move in a couple of weeks ago. He stopped by the house this weekend when we were getting ready to go ramp digging. He asked if he could tag along and I told him yes. Afterwards, he wanted to know if he could write and article that documented his experience. I agreed and told him that I would be glad to post it on the website for him.

Having wild ramps fresh from the field to prepare them the way I wanted sounded like a good start before I jumped into the market scene and was overwhelmed. I needed to go ramp digging, and I needed an experienced ramp digger to teach me. The first thing I learned was to make sure that when foraging for ramps you don’t find yourself with autumn crocus or lily of the valley flower, both of which are poisonous and would ruin any dining experience quickly. I also learned that because of the increasing popularity that they’re getting harder and harder to find.  Experienced diggers groused about beds being completely wiped out by the younger generation that digs every last wild ramp in the patch and don’t leave any to reseed. I convinced RampHead I just wanted to sample the wild variety for my own needs and not in a large quantity so he agreed to take me with him. I was grateful he didn’t blindfold me or anything on the way to the site and he said hopefully if a few people would learn how to gather them responsibly, and grow some of their own; it would help out the rest as a whole.

WV Ramps

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Shipping Wild Ramps

Shipping Wild Ramps – The first part of this weeks orders

Here is a little insight on how we ship our ramps. What you see in the baskets is half of all of this weeks orders. We dug these today, sorted and stacked them as we dug. After much digging we brought them home and put them in the baskets. From here they will go into our cooler so they stay fresh.

Tomorrow we will go out at first light and dig the other half of this weeks orders, and do the same thing to those.  The shipping labels and boxes will be prepared over the weekend, and the ramps will be packaged and shipped first thing Monday morning. (The lady at the post office really “loves” ramp day. She grimaces every Monday when she sees me coming with boxes and boxes of the odoriferous green forest herbs. I don’t think she likes the smell.)

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Another Batch Of WV Ramps Shipping On 4/21

We will harvest another batch of WV Ramps this weekend during our weekly dig and we will be shipping them out on 4/21.

We expect to keep harvesting for a few more weeks. The mild weather coming in (it’s actually supposed to snow tomorrow!) should slow the growth down a little bit and allow us some extra harvest time. Last year was one of the shortest harvest seasons we have had in a while and I am hoping we more than make up for that this year. We are on track so far. We are currently at three weeks into the season and it looks like it should definitely be lasting for another two or three weeks at least. Wouldn’t that be nice? To have a full month or two of all the ramps you can eat? Sounds like a good time to me!

Here is the Wild Ramps Order Form for those of you who still have not ordered, or are ready to order your second or your third batch.

In the meantime I have a WV Ramps question for you guys.

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