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更新时间:2019/4/25 20:29:43 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A forgotten food of the American South

It was Mother’s Day weekend, and late spring teased the three-month inferno that North Carolinians call summer. I’d been waiting for this moment: for the first time in my adult life, I was planting a proper garden.


As I marked off the boundaries for the compost heap, a tiller hummed alongside me, simultaneously ripping up chunks of red clay earth on one side and spitting pulverised, marble-sized fragments out the other. Its operator finished the last row, leaned over the clunky equipment and let out a long, deep sigh – the kind that comes from physical labour.


“You’ve got a bunch of poke salad over there,” he said casually, gesturing towards the chain-link fence running the border of my property.


My eyes followed his gaze, settling on the tall, leafy stalks of vibrant greens along the fence. As soon as he said the words – poke salad – a stream of memories flooded my brain: how my mother and aunts would pull the car over on a country road to pick a good patch of poke salad, also called pokeweed; the quick and precise way they snapped the leaves from their stalks; the smell of my great-grandmother preparing the bounty in her kitchen, finishing the dish with bacon grease scooped from an old Crisco can she kept on the stove.


A wild green that grows abundantly throughout the United States, pokeweed is especially plentiful in Appalachia, a cultural region that follows the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York State to north-eastern Mississippi, as well as the rest of the American South. The cooked, finished greens are called poke sallet; and ‘polk salad’, a spelling popularised in Louisiana native Tony Joe White’s 1969 swamp-rock hit Polk Salad Annie. I hadn’t heard the words since I left my sleepy hometown of Sanford, a rural town (at least when I lived there) located smack dab in the middle of North Carolina, 25 years ago.

全美各地都有这种天然野菜,但阿巴拉契亚(Appalachia)一带盛产美洲商陆。这一地区是指阿巴拉契亚山脉中、南段一带,从纽约州南部到密西西比州东北部的一带,包括美国南部的其他一些地区。人们将天然野菜炒熟、拌匀,这道菜名为商陆嫩芽色拉(poke sallet,polk salad);沼泽摇滚歌手乔·怀特(Tony Joe White)出生于路易斯安那州,1969年发布新歌《做野菜色拉的安妮》(Polk Salad Annie),风靡一时,这道菜也广为人知。我的家乡桑福县(Sanford)位于北卡罗来纳州正当中,是死气沉沉的乡镇(至少我在那里的时候是这样),在离开家乡的25年里,我再也没听到人们说起这道菜。

After spending the last decade of that time away as a Colorado-based digital nomad and taking an eight-month sojourn in Mexico, I’d just returned to North Carolina. Now that I had an actual yard, I was determined to grow at least some of my own food. Looking at the showy greens lining the fence, I suddenly wondered: do people still eat poke sallet?


The short answer is yes and no. If you ask older Southerners, many still remember eating poke sallet, or at least knowing someone who did. But millennials? Forget about it. I asked dozens of people about poke sallet after the tiller incident in my garden, and not a single person under the age of 40 had a clue what I was talking about. To understand why it disappeared from Americans’ tables – and why it’s experiencing a slight renaissance due to the foraging movement – one must delve into the green’s storied history.


Pokeweed was a dietary staple throughout Appalachia for generations. “It was a food that you ate mostly because you were poor, and that’s not necessarily something that everyone wanted to embrace,” said Mike Costello, chef and farmer at Lost Creek Farm in West Virginia. As subsequent generations became more financially successful than their parents’, the need to forage wild foods dwindled.

在整个阿巴拉契亚地区,祖祖辈辈的食谱里都少不了美洲商陆。西弗吉尼亚州迷失溪农场(Lost Creek Farm)的农夫兼主厨科斯特洛(Mike Costello)说:“因为生活贫困,人们才以此为食,未必人人都欣然为之。一代接着一代,人们的生活越来越富裕,不用去挖野菜,这方面的需求有所下降。”

“Most narratives about foods like poke sallet are associated with shame, poverty or desperation – but to me, the story is more about ingenuity and resourcefulness,” Costello said. “Those are things that people can be proud of.”


If you live in the south-eastern US, you’ve likely seen plenty of pokeweed growing wild and never knew the name. The hardy perennial plant can grow up to 10ft tall and thrives almost anywhere: beside ditches, along fences, near livestock pastures, even in deserted city lots. Once mature, it has unmistakably flamboyant foliage, thick, magenta-tinted stems, and dark purple or black berries.


Like many foraged foods, pokeweed comes with a catch: it can be toxic if prepared incorrectly.


“In Appalachia, living off the land was an important element years ago, and a lot of our older generation still remember what you can and cannot eat in the wild,” said Brandon Pennington, executive director of the City of Harlan Tourist and Convention Commission, which hosts the annual Poke Sallet Festival in Harlan, Kentucky. “However, with mass farming and food being so immediately available in our world, that art is lost.”

每年,在肯塔基州哈伦县(Harlan),旅游和传统委员会(Tourist and Convention Commission)都会举办美洲商陆嫩芽色拉节(Poke Sallet Festival)庆祝活动,常务董事柏宁顿(Brandon Pennington)说:“很多年前,在阿巴拉契亚地区,人们靠野菜生活,这很重要,什么能吃,什么不能吃,许多长辈对此仍有印象。然而,随着大规模农业种植,如今食品供应这么充足,这种野菜文化逐渐淡出人们的视野。”

Though the berries of the poke plant have been used for everything from ink to lipstick (Dolly Parton famously wrote about the latter in her inspirational book Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You), you should never eat them – nor the roots, stalk, seeds or raw leaves of the pokeweed. Powerful toxins reside in these parts of the plant and although no deaths from eating poke sallet have been officially recorded in modern times, children frequently get sick from eating the berries, which resemble wild grape clusters when mature. Most often, symptoms include severe stomach cramps, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty breathing.

从墨水到唇膏,商陆浆果的用途很广(对于后者,乡村乐坛的著名女歌手帕顿(Dolly Parton)在其励志类文学作品《志存高远:活在现实里的梦想家》(Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You)中有所提及)。虽然如此,商陆果实不能食用,根、茎、种子也不能食用,叶片不能生吃。美洲商陆全株有毒,毒性非常强。虽然据统计,尚未出现不慎使用而导致死亡的情况,不过,成熟的果实一串串下垂,常被儿童误作野生葡萄服用,从而导致中毒。中毒症状为:腹部抽搐,心跳加剧,严重呕吐,痢疾以及呼吸困难。

Pokeweed’s toxicity increases as the plant matures, especially in the root system, which should be avoided altogether at all growth stages. Leaves are the least toxic parts of the poke plant, followed by the stems and berries. That’s why only the leaves of young spring plants should be picked, and then cooked thoroughly. It was through trial and error that Native Americans, African slaves and other people from the region figured out the delicate balance of how to prepare and consume this bountiful, early-sprouting green without becoming unwell.


The first time or two, it’s best to pick pokeweed with someone who knows their stuff; otherwise, you may mistake poke for just another weed. Or, if you can identify the mature plant (which is much easier due to the distinctive purple stalk and berries), you can mark the spot and return the following spring when the perennial plant is young and edible. The wide, almond-shaped leaves should be picked while the plant is young and tender – ideally between 1ft to 2ft high – and before there is any purple at all on the stalk, stems or leaves.


Now comes the (questionably) fun part: the raw leaves should be rinsed and boiled to remove the plant’s toxins. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and then drain and ‘squeeze’ the greens using a spatula or wooden spoon. Repeat this process three times, then sauté the greens in a pan with bacon grease and seasoning like salt and pepper to taste. It’s a time-consuming process, and like most greens poke cooks down dramatically, so you need a lot of it for just a few servings. Some say poke sallet tastes like turnip greens or spinach, with a slight iron or mineral aftertaste.


So why would anyone go to all this trouble to cook a weed that can make you sick? “It’s something that represents more than just flavours or ingredients,” Costello said. “It’s a piece of who you are and your connection to those landscapes.”


Will pokeweed join the ranks of trendy foraged foods like ramps and chanterelle mushrooms? Probably not. However, there are a handful of chefs who are brave enough to serve it to the masses. Chef Clark Barlowe, owner of Heirloom in Charlotte, North Carolina, grew up surrounded by pokeweed in the western part of the state, but had never seen it prepared.

如今,人们采摘北美野韭和鸡油菌,这很流行,美洲商陆也会有这样的待遇吗?也许不会。然而,有几位主厨很有开拓精神,为食客奉上美洲商陆。巴洛(Clark Barlowe)是北卡罗来纳州夏洛特市(Charlotte)“传家宝餐厅”(Heirloom)的老板兼主厨,在北卡西部度过童年的时光,经常见到美洲商陆,但从未见过如何烹食。

“When I opened the restaurant in 2014, I had a renewed interest in it and asked my Nana – my mom’s mother – to teach me about the preparation,” he said. “From there, it was simply a matter of teaching my cooks the technique, foraging some young poke, and we were off to the races.”


Each spring, Barlowe features the green on Heirloom’s tasting menu for one month while it is in prime season. “We have a poke patch that grows right next to the restaurant so it’s a fairly easy get for us, and some regular customers bring us the perfect-sized leaves when they are weeding their yards.”


Undoubtedly, some chefs are intimidated by serving potentially toxic foraged foods. But Barlowe is confident in his staff and cooking technique – the same three-boil method Nana used. In the past, he’s served pokeweed ice cream made with juice from those exotic, dark purple berries (which must be carefully pressed to avoid breaking any poisonous seeds), and next spring he plans to experiment with a ‘poke punch’ recipe from the 1800s, a simple concoction of orange juice, soda water, mint and pokeweed juice. Barlowe says he may put a slight twist on the recipe by adding what he calls ‘rooftop honey water’, a secondary product that comes from making beeswax from the honeybees he keeps on the restaurant’s roof.

这种天然野菜有毒,可能引起顾客中毒,有的厨师因此感到很害怕。但是,巴洛相信后厨人员,相信这种方法可以杀菌消毒,冷水下锅,煮至沸腾,重复三遍,外婆就用这种方法。过去,人们可以点商陆冰激凌,浆果熟时紫黑色,很诱人,多汁水,用作冰激凌的原料(压榨时务必谨慎,以免挤破种子,种子有毒)。明年春天,他会推出新品,以19世纪“商陆潘趣酒”(poke punch)的配方为参考,用柳橙汁、苏打水、薄荷和商陆汁调制饮品。巴洛表示,他可能稍加改良,蜂蜡是蜂群的产品,蜂蜜水是蜂蜡的副产品,巴洛将其存放于餐厅的屋顶上,称之为“屋顶花园蜂蜜水”,巴洛会将蜂蜜水加入饮品中。

You can also grab a poke sallet plate with all the fixings at the Poke Sallet Festival in late May and early June. Otherwise, it looks like it’s up to the home cooks of Appalachia and the US South, foodies, and foragers to keep the tradition of preparing poke sallet alive.