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Poke sallet/salad as a dynamic accumulator of plant nutrients?

 
Eliza Lord
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I just wrote a blog post about poke sallet as a possible nutrient accumulator. Does anyone have any experience with it?

I'm excited about its potential in the southeast US as an easy to grow native with a deep tap root, tons of quickly produced biomass, and the ability to be cut repeatedly. Cutting it during flowering would eliminate many people's complaints about birds dropping purple splotches on their vehicles, too!

Let me know if you have any opinions of experience with this plant as a fertilizer/mulch:

http://www.appalachianfeet.com/2012/06/13/how-to-get-excited-about-poke-sallet-native-options-for-permaculture-nutrient-accumulators/
 
Cris Bessette
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Nice article.

I've cooked and eaten this a time or two, and it does taste great, but all the work involved with preparing it has discouraged me from using it as a perennial veggie.

Funny thing is, I've been thinking along similar lines as you. I've been encouraging a large patch of it that is growing next to one of my tomato/herb patches, and just a few days ago I cut down some 7 foot tall plants and used them as mulch. I left about 6" of the bases of the plants so that they could grow back.

I never thought about the nutrient accumulator aspect though, so I'm gonna keep an eye on my patch and see how it does.
 
William James
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I love it.

Big taproot. Nice looking plant. Bird food. Biomass. What isn't to love?

The only thing NOT to love about this plant is that is has like 2% germinability, which means you will have 2% luck growing it from seed.

UNLESS! You know someone who is willing to handle battery acid and thus can simulate a bird's stomach, which is how the plant spreads naturally. Personally I haven't found that person yet. When I do, I'll let you know.

I have some (4-5 plants) growing. It comes up every year. I take off the seeds so the birds don't spread it. The yard doesn't really need any more of it, and the neighbors would not be happy with what they consider a weed jumping the fence. I let it grow last year, so this year it's about double the size. Yay.

Have to be careful about eating it, though. Not when the root is red. And double boil. There's a youtube video about it which is helpful in getting to know how to harvest/prepare it.

ps: Check my posts, I wrote a thread about this too 6 months ago.
William

 
Eliza Lord
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I love this forum!

So what you're saying is that even if I cut it down when the berries are purple and ripe, they won't germinate indiscriminately in my beds?

That's kind of awesome!

I'm certain through experience I can just let the birds germinate the ones I need and replant them if they come up in a bad spot.

Cris, let me know how the experiment goes!
 
tel jetson
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the berries make a decent ink. haven't tried it myself, but it was good enough for the Declaration of Independence.
 
Isaac Hill
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I don't have any quantifiable experience, but I am using it for all those reasons in my forest garden. I also eat it every spring, I find the taste better than asparagus and the work of boiling it and throwing out the water not such a bad trade off.
 
Matu Collins
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Those roots can get huge! I also leave some poke here and there. it grows impressively large and I bet it is an accumulator.

As for leaving the berries on the ground- I have noticed that mice like the seeds too, and I bet their guts could ready the seeds for germination as well as a bird's. Once a mouse decided to store poke seeds in my herbs and spices cupboard. It took me a while to realize what sort of seeds they were.
 
Lloyd George
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sorta like the talking donkey, it is getting it to shut up that is the trick....poke is pretty invasive around here..in fact my hobby is knocking them over...lol. Never thought about the nutrient value much, but it does make good mulch....good article, and a good point.
 
wayne stephen
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I chop it and throw it around trees and berries. I consider that complex bitterness found in plants like poke and dandelion as sign of being a nutrient accumulator . What else would that flavor be made of? Wild turkeys eat the berries when mast is scarce. We have alot of wood edge with no mowing for years and the only time the deer have bothered my garden or orchard was when the mast was very low , thats when I noticed all the poke berries being eaten.
 
Jeanine Gurley
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My mothers family has eaten polk for generations. I have resisted until this year. All they do is saute the baby greens until wilted so there really isn't much work to cooking it their way. Since they are the side of my family that lives to be 'really old' I'm figuring that it must be safe.

I had resisted eating them just because I always saw them as a major nuisance that took up space in my horse pastures. But now, a little older, wiser and thriftier, I like the additional free food source.

I'll have to try adding them to my mulch - there are masses of them that grow on the edges of the property.
 
Jamie Jackson
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We are building an underground house and have big piles of pure clay and rock that was dug up. Poke grows the biggest in these piles and during the heat of the summer and the drought, I swear that plant was singing it was so happy. Massive Poke. the ones in the garden with fertile soil are small - like waist high. The ones in the clay are well over my head. A side of the dirt bank they were growing in slid off revealing the root. I about fell over at the size of it. Like two footballs together. How in the heck does this plant bust through clay like that and produce juicy berries in a drought? Amazing plant.

So I decided I want to plant it all around my orchard to try to improve the clay packed soil. Our soil up here on the top land is horrible and if poke can't bust through, then nothing can! I look at those big green leaves and can't wait to add it to the compost pile.

I didn't know about the low germination rate. I don't have any battery acid laying around So I should just plant a ton and hope for the best?
 
Nicole Castle
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Jamie Jackson wrote:So I decided I want to plant it all around my orchard to try to improve the clay packed soil. Our soil up here on the top land is horrible and if poke can't bust through, then nothing can! I look at those big green leaves and can't wait to add it to the compost pile.

I didn't know about the low germination rate. I don't have any battery acid laying around So I should just plant a ton and hope for the best?


Well, if it's growing wild in your region, if you add some fencing or bird perches where you want the poke to grow, the birds will do the work of seeding it for you.

 
Jamie Jackson
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Nicole Castle wrote:
Jamie Jackson wrote:So I decided I want to plant it all around my orchard to try to improve the clay packed soil. Our soil up here on the top land is horrible and if poke can't bust through, then nothing can! I look at those big green leaves and can't wait to add it to the compost pile.

I didn't know about the low germination rate. I don't have any battery acid laying around So I should just plant a ton and hope for the best?


Well, if it's growing wild in your region, if you add some fencing or bird perches where you want the poke to grow, the birds will do the work of seeding it for you.



Genius! I do have fencing around each tree, nothing yet. Now that I know it's 20% germination, I might just plant a ton trying to get it to come up. There are many branches of dried poke berries, so I won't be taking food from the wildlife.
 
Dan Boone
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Even though eating Poke is traditional in these parts, nobody in our immediately family is interested in the stuff. And the landowner is concerned that various little nieces, nephews, grandchildren might come to harm playing with the berries. So my instructions are to discourage the poke when I see it.

We have A LOT of it -- at least 40 plants in my zones 2 and 3, and they grow about six feet high each year. I'm not going to get rid of it by any reasonable means, and it's not a priority for me in any case. However, it's right at the stage of growth where the stalks are most of an inch thick but still tender enough to snap off easily in your hand. So I have been plucking it by the double armload whenever I see it, and throwing it around my fruit tree plantings for mulch.

It finally occurred to me that I ought to check here on Permies to see if anybody else was doing this, and find out what if anything is known about the nutrient and fertilizer value of the stuff. And sure enough, I found this blog post!

I would love to hear from anybody who has been doing this for awhile, to hear their impressions of the results. Worth doing, or waste of effort?
 
Eliza Lord
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Hi Dan! I've been doing the same thing ever since I wrote the original post. I don't think it is as good a nutrient accumulator as comfrey, but it's been a fantastic carbon chop & drop (and presumably has some nutrient accumulating capacity, though I've never been able to exactly nail it down). The stalks are perfect for compost because their hollow nature provides air pockets that keeps circulation and microbial activity up. Plus as you mention, it is incredibly easy to break the big stalks off. I popped stalks off of a bunch of it today and stuffed it under my gooseberry and some other plants -- if I hide it under the fruit shrubs in the front yard, the neighbors don't even know I am mulching with weeds!
 
Dan Boone
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I am trying to get some comfrey started from seeds (no cuttings readily available within the means of my no-budget) but have been suffering the usual seedling setbacks. Meanwhile the thing I like best about harvesting the poke for mulch is indeed how EASY it is to just snap and grab. It's a ton of biomass for not much effort.
 
Eliza Lord
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Ooh... if you DO end up planting comfrey from seed, you may want to try to contain it somehow. All the permies I know who planted it from seed consider it a type 1 error because it's such a bully once it gets where it wants to go. With the deep tap root that regenerates from any sized cutting, you have to work extraordinarily hard to remove it from an unwanted spot.

I have one friend who loves it, because she is using it to feed livestock. She also feeds her livestock kudzu. She uses a cattle panel enclosure about 8' x 8' so the sheep and goats can only get their heads in about 2' on each side and can't kill the plants in the center. The cattle panel enclosure is positioned in the center of the pasture so any escapees get eaten to death. Anyway, maybe stick with the poke until you can get some sterile comfrey.

Maybe you could get a sterile Russian comfrey root for just the price of postage if you sent an SASE or traded a plant with someone on permies or Gardenweb's plant exchange (most people with comfrey have plenty to share): http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/exchind/
 
Matu Collins
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Last year my baby was born at the end of May so I spent the summer carrying him around and I began to use a modified system similar to chop and drop. I call it stomp and drop!

I always leave some poke but if I left it all we'd be buried in the stuff. So everytime I see it coming up where I don't want it, stomp. You need to hear the crunch of the stem.

Those massive gangly roots are big, and I have dug them out before to good effect with lots of effort. The stomping plan weakens the plant and can be done holding an infant
 
Dan Boone
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Eliza, thanks for your concern! But I have read the comfrey warnings with care and I simply don't see it as a potential problem for my circumstances. I've got a lot of room where I could put it and never notice it, not until it managed to displace several acres of honey locust, osage orange, greenbriar, and blackberry. I think I can get away with a patch or two.
 
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