Pick Poke Weed for Profit

Poke weed is an early wild green some folks pick and sell a cash crop.

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    A young poke weed shoot of "canning size."
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    Mature poke is poisonous.
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    Poke weed grows abundantly along fence rows.

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I'd been aware of the culinary possibilities of young poke weed (Phytolacca americana) for years. It's one of the first wild greens I eat each spring, cooking the finger-sized shoots like asparagus and the tender leaves like spinach.

I also knew that some people here in eastern Oklahoma pick poke to sell, since the sign reading "We buy poke, 5¢ a pound" had gone up in front of the local gas station as it does every spring. It never occurred to me to harvest and market any "extra" greens myself, however, since I figured I'd need to collect an incredible number of the four-inch-tall spears (the size I usually gather for eating) to make such a venture worthwhile.

That's what I thought anyway, until one day last May when a young woman in a pickup truck stopped and knocked on the door.

"Mind if I pick your poke?" she asked.

"Help yourself," I answered. (After all, we have several acres infested with the weed.) "But I'm afraid it's already too large to be really tender."

"Oh, I'm not going to cook the plants," she laughed. "I'm going to sell 'em, and I want the shoots to be as big as the canning companies will buy!"

6/15/2015 12:32:51 PM

I have poke weed growing everywhere! As soon as I pick it sprouts a hundred! I knew you could eat but also have heard poisonous. So a friend said maybe you should sell so I decided to look into it and seems I am throwing a lot of money away!! Will be researching more and hopefully find buyers:) we will all be happy!!

8/14/2009 10:40:41 AM

I have Poke plants growing wild in my backyard that I have been trying to keep under control for years because when I first moved to the area, I was told by neighbors that the plant was poisonous. I've been digging and digging and DIGGING for years trying to get rid of it, and here I could have been EATING it!!



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