If it weren’t for “Poke Salad Annie,” the plant would have remained an obscure regional species of the South. The term sallet is Old English for “cooked greens,” and this indicated it was not to be used as a fresh green because it’s too poisonous. Nearly all parts of this perennial plant are dangerous to kids, pets and livestock. Be doubly aware when berries are present as children will be drawn to try them. Even though it was once used medicinally, it is no longer and should be omitted from family backyards.
Poke sallet is eaten only during a brief period in the spring. Only the new shoots, like asparagus, are cut at about a foot tall. They must be twice-boiled to become edible, then boiled a third time to cook. After the first boiling the water is discarded, then boiled again in fresh water and so on. This ensures that all three poisons in the plant, phytolaccatoxin, triterpene and saponins, are thoroughly leached away or inactivated.