Omnivore - Decatur resident champions pokeweed and backyard chickens

Southern Spaces features articles by Allison O. Adams

Image I know you're familiar with the Southern Foodways Alliance. But do you also know about Southern Spaces? It's an online, peer-reviewed journal about Southern culture maintained by Emory University.

It's not heavy on food essays but there are a few, including two by Decatur resident Allison O. Adams, a brilliant writer, folk singer, media consultant, sustainability advocate and probably more. Her most recent essay is about poke sallet (or pokeweed or polk salad), entitled "A Mess of Poke. Earlier, she authored one about the backyard chicken movement.

Both essays have a strong personal dimension, are well researched and look at pertinent cultural, ethical, economic and political issues. Here is a sample in which she wonders why poke sallet has lost its appeal:

My guess is that poke sallet still carries an aftertaste of poverty. Folks ate it because they were poor, and poke grows everywhere. So in urban worlds it is disdained, but it is celebrated at annual festivals in places such as Harlan, Kentucky, and Gainesboro, Tennessee (where festival events include a poke-eating contest).

There are other reasons poke is maligned. Because of its aggressive growth, gardeners consider it a bane, much like kudzu. (In fact, kudzu is just as edible. The new shoots are an excellent green in a quiche; the blossoms, which to me smell like grape Nehi, can be distilled into delicious jellies; and the Japanese commercially cultivate it and use the starch of the roots for tempura batter, tofu, noodles, and gelatinous confections.)...

MORE FROM SOUTHERN SPACES: If you like figs half as much as I do, you'll want to check out this brief video of Ryan Gainey, Decatur gardener extraordinaire.