Warm and wet rains of April caused the wild, southern greens, known as Polk Salad or Polk Salet to sprout and begin its short but glorious life cycle. Picking and preparing Polk Salad has always been a spring ritual followed year after year by my family.
I feel so lucky to have plentiful wild growing plants in my city yard and so have no need to drive the countryside looking for wild stands of Polk growing around old burn piles close to fallen and forgotten homesteads. Usually when you find a good stand, someone else has found it too, so you never know if you will be lucky and be the first to pick the succulent leaves of the wild greens.
I take a five-quart bowl to the yard garden and individually remove the leaves from the main plant. I stack the leaves neatly into my bowl. When the bowl is tightly packed with stacks of leaves, quit picking. Each leaf has to be individually washed in cool water. Nip the stems off the leaves as you wash them. Cleaning the Polk takes patience.
Place the leaves flat and stacked into a large pot and fill with water to an inch above the Polk. Allow the pot of water and Polk to come to a roiling boil. Rapidly boil the leaves for about 5 minutes. Pour the hot water off the Polk, refill the pot of Polk with fresh cool water and repeat the process of boiling and pouring off the water. This step is completely necessary; Polk Salad or Polk Salet is a poisonous plant. The poisons are removed by closely following the directions of the two boils and pour offs. Wash your hands well after handling raw Polk.
After the second boil and pour off, let the Polk cool until it can be handled without burning your hands. Take the Polk out of the pot and cut into strips as you would fresh spinach or collards greens. Cut the leaves crosswise into 1-inch strips.
In a large skillet, brown 6 slices of JC Potter bacon. When the bacon is crispy, remove from skillet leaving the bacon drippings in the skillet. Let the skillet cool while you clean and chop one bunch of green onion. Sauté the onion in the reserved and reheated bacon drippings. Add the cut strips of Polk to the skillet with the sautéed onions and mix completely.
Add 2 cups of water to the skillet of Polk. Place a lid on the skillet and let the Polk slowly simmer for about 30 minutes. Take the lid off the skillet, turn up the heat and stir-fry until all the water evaporates.
In a small bowl, beat an egg, slowly drizzle the egg over the Polk stirring and cooking over high heat. When the egg is done sprinkle Polk mixture with crumbled pieces of bacon. Transfer your Polk Salad to a small to medium-sized bowl and serve with the rest of your meal. Some people like to sprinkle Louisiana Hot Sauce on their Polk Salad.
Polk Salet or Polk Salad is a dark, leafy green similar to but stronger tasting than spinach but with a flavor of its own. Polk should be picked early in the season. Do not choose leaves over 6 inches long. Prepared correctly, Polk Salad is a healthful, delicious side dish. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Large quantities of Polk Salad Greens can be processed up to and after the second boil, then divide into portions and freeze. Finish cooking after thawing.