Pokeweed - Poke (Phytolacca americana) Dyers Pokeberry American Pokeweed Poke Sallet Herb

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Pokeweed - Poke (Phytolacca americana) Dyers Pokeberry American Pokeweed Poke Sallet Herb


Height 12 ft

Phytolacca americana, also known as pokeberry, poke, or American pokeweed, is a strong aromatic plant with a poisonous root that resembles a horseradish, and is native to wet or sandy areas of eastern and southern parts of the USA. The common name, poke, comes from a word for 'blood' or 'dye' in a language indigenous to North America (likely Powhatan or Virginia Algonquin)and refers to the brightly coloured berries that can be used to make dye when ripened. Berries contain a red dye used to colour wine, candies, cloth, and paper.

NOTE: Pokeweed is not only a nutritional powerhouse, but it can be toxic to humans - if not prepared correctly. We sell seeds for this for use as a natural dye plant. Wear Gloves. Pokeweed, should you wish to cook it, is always eaten cooked. Raw poke can make you sick or kill you. It’s especially dangerous for children and older folks. Caution is advised.

Pokeweed is one of the first plants to sprout in the spring; it is traditionally foraged,(along with other 'weeds' like chickweed and nettles), as it is extremely high in vitamin A, and has significant amounts of vitamin C, iron and calcium. In homeopathic medicine, pokeweed is used to treat tonsillitis, and may also be used to treat psoriasis/eczema, and suppress inflammatory immune responses. Pokeweed also has lymphatic cleansing properties and contains a unique antiviral protein that is said may inhibit the growth of some herpes simplex viruses, and it is also rumoured to prevent or treat cancer and boost immunity in people with HIV.

The best time to harvest pokeweed for food is before the plant reaches knee height (well before it flowers). Even though its toxic if not prepared correctly, Europeans have and continue to eat a pokeweed salad dish, called poke sallet or poke salat.  The word sallet comes from an older form of English, and refers to something like a cooked salad.  This 'weed' can grow up to 12 ft tall and 6 ft wide; leaves can grow up to 12 in long, and the plants attract many birds to your garden. Would make a great hedge! If you do plan to try it, it is recommended to plant a new pokeweed each year as opposed to harvesting from mature plants in the wild, because the older they are -the more toxic they are.

  • Sun to part shade: 4 to 8 hours of direct sun each day
  • Soil: moist, rich and well draining 
  • Direct sow seeds in the early spring. Spread the seed on compost rich soil in early spring.
  • Lightly cover the seeds with soil and keep soil moist.
  • Spacing: rows 4 ft (1 m.) apart 
  • Thin the seedlings to 3 feet (1 m)
  • NOTE: plant in a small area away from your main garden; container grown will help to prevent it from spreading to other areas.
  • Harvest: collect the berries and crush them in water. Let the seed sit in the water for a few days. Skim off any seeds that float to the top; they aren't viable. Drain the rest of the seeds and dry them on a paper towel. Once dry, place in a plastic ziplock bag and put the bag in the fridge*. Keep the bag at around 40°F for at least 3 months. *Cold stratification is required for successful germination.
  • Seed Count: 5