Mabon, the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, is a time to give thanks for the many blessings of harvest. I'm preparing for my third session on Enhancing Your Life with Herbs. We've learned numerous ways to use herbs. Some are obvious including cooking, healing, dyes, cosmetics, decorating with herbal bouquets, wreaths and swags. Others are less obvious, such as prediction, protection, prophecy, fertility, attraction, and discouraging ghosts and witches from creating havoc! There are still more!
Make ink! Poke berries are ripe and ready right now to make ink! There is a jar in my 'fridge labeled POISON because the juice is a luscious magenta color, clove scented to preserve it. It could be very tempting! This is the ink that was rumored to have been used to write the Declaration of Independence. Further research indicates that is was used for the draft, but the actual document was written with iron gall ink made from ferrous sulfate and ink extracted from the oak galls.
In the spring, the immature leaves of the poke plant, said to be similar to turnip, collard or mustard greens, are cooked with bay leaves, Cajun spices, and a ham bone. Unlike the other greens, poke is considered to be poisonous until 'thoroughly cooked", a process that requires boiling it for at least five minutes for three times and throwing out the water to replace it with new, uncontaminated water each time. After the final boiling, the instructions are to wring as much water out of the plant as humanly possible. Because the plant is poisonous, so you have to cook it. A lot.
I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and knew people of considerable age (note - I was 12 at the time - anyone over 40 was of 'considerable age' in my perception) who ate poke regularly and annually, praising it for it's role in reducing or eliminating joint inflammation, arthritis, and numerous types of cancer.
Personally, I'm reluctant to cook plants that have been declared poisonous. I can go to the grocery store or farmer's market and buy plants that are safe . . . and edible.
NOTE: As I was "poking" - pun intended - fun at poke today, one of my participants mentioned that she grew up eating poke and they simply gathered and cooked the young plants in early spring. She has convinced me to give it a try, but Gil has asked that I wait until my class is over! Love this class!!!
There are other ways to use poke. If anyone has put a hex on you, use hydrangea and poke to remove it. Call me. I'm not getting into all of that here.
Another way to enhance your life with herbs is to write a song about them, as Tony Joe White did in 1969. He wrote Polk Salad Annie. He did a fabulous job and I adore his version, but I'm featuring Elvis because his use of crib notes is truly hilarious, and after all, he is the KING! So I apologize to you Tony, but I'm opening my session with Elvis. Enjoy!
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!