If you like collard, turnip or mustard greens, you will really enjoy Guy Mathis poke sallet. Poke sallet (poke weed) grows wild all over the United States. During bad times, southerners discovered that it was a plant that could grace any meal. Guy’s techniques for making mouth-watering poke sallet. (I have added a few asides in parenthesis.):
As spring begins to peep around the corner, my memories go back to my childhood experiences and the joy of living on the farm. Each spring my mom would have us look for poke sallet on the farm and in the surrounding area.
It is what we called our “spring tonic.” I still like to look for it in the spring and make a pot to eat and put the rest up for later. I enjoy cooking it for people who have never eaten it. Most say they like it. It is a wild plant that grows in April and early May. It is important to pick the small, young, tender leaves. It takes quit a bit of leaves to make “a mess” of poke sallet.” (Southern definition of “mess”: Enough for the whole family to eat at a sittin’.) Last spring I found where several patches were growing in Lake Arrowhead but because of surgery I was not able to pick it. That is when my wife, Billie, called Tyler and Nila. (We had already discussed the matter and had volunteered to be ready at a moments notice to help harvest it.)
After picking enough to fill the back end of our Expedition, we headed to the house. (Billie got us some comfortable lawn chairs, some cold drinks and a large garbage bag.) We sat in the shade of the garage and stripped away the leaves from the stems. (Guy does not like to have anyone help him wash the poke sallet. He is very particular. It is said to be poisonous if not cleaned and cooked properly.) The center stem of the leaf must be removed. The leaves must go through two washings. Put as many leaves as will go into a large cooking pot half full of water.
Cover and boil for 15 minutes. Pour this through a colander and squeeze out the excess water. Put in fresh water and bring to a boil again for 15 minutes. Pour off the water and squeeze out the liquid once more. It is important that you press all of the excess water out of the leaves. (At this point, save out a mess for the family and freeze the rest for later.)
Now it is ready to cook. (A mess for six – two gallons of fresh greens will cook down to about four cups of greens.) Growing up on the farm we used “streak-o-lean” grease to cook with the poke sallet. It is also called fatback (or salt pork).
Maybe some of you remember this. Fry up a big batch of streak-o-lean until all of the fat is cooked out. I like to cook it in an iron skillet. It will be crisp. (I asked Guy if it was chopped up and put in the greens. He said no that it is for the cook to eat. We scientifically figured out how much grease to use by pouring the same amount of water as he used for grease in the skillet. Then I measured it – one cup.) Add the greens to the skillet (four cups of pre-washed and precooked greens) with the grease and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. (Can be seasoned with salt. Amount depends on how salty the fatback is.) Serve with slice boiled eggs on top of the greens.
We make crackling cornbread, roasted pork loin, garlic mashed potatoes, (Guy has been making garlic mashed potatoes since his children were little.) peas, iced tea (and Guy’s fabulous homemade hot sauce). It is a feast that we look forward to each year.