ORRIN MORRIS: Consult an experienced Southern Cook before preparing polkweed to eat

The U.S. population has passed the 314 million mark, but while that has occurred, the total world population has passed the 7 billion mark. This means that Americans represent only one out of every 22 people in the world.When I was an infant, my family was my world. In childhood, my horizons grew from the city of Omaha to the Midwest, especially from Denver to Chicago.

In my teen years, I became conscious of being an American; however, I thought of all others as "foreigners."

As I have aged, my horizons have grown. I have become aware of the many ways my life has been enriched by the cultures of other peoples of the world. I have been introduced to their food, clothing, herbs, music and art.

I have come to realize that this verse urges me, as a follower of the Lord, to be a global citizen: "The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it" (Psalm 24:1).POLKWEED

Phytolacca americanaThe beneficial uses of the polkweed were taught to the pioneers by the American Indians. In May, when the leaves are young and tender, some folks "cook up a mess of polk greens." Before you try it, however, consult an experienced Southern cook. "Done up" the wrong way, they can give you a bad tummy ache.

Further, avoid the root entirely since it is poisonous.

Another name that is rarely used anymore is inkberry. In pioneer days, the juice of the berries was used as an ink when commercial supplies of regular ink ran short.

Polkweed's favorite habitat is moist thickets, drainage ditches and sheltered roadsides. The normal blooming season is early to midsummer unless there is ample moisture. Then it can extend into September.

Many years ago, when there was above-average rain, I found some plants had sprouted atop our granite outcrops. Normally they could not survive there, but at that visit, I found polkweed in bloom with berries all at the same time.

Normally, the fruit matures in late August or early September and is an edible purple-black berry. However, caution is always advised before consuming any wild berry.

The plant often reaches upward to 10 feet, including the stalk that bears the flowers and fruit. But plants I found that day on the outcrop were 2 to 3 feet tall.

Polkweed is easily identified by the lance-shaped leaves. They are much larger than surrounding weeds. Another clue in identifying polkweed is the reddish-purple stem.

I repeat, "The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it" (Psalm 24:1). May we grow in our faith to see the world in a new light, through the eyes of the great psalmist.

I have published more than 280 of these wildflower columns in two volumes which will be for sale Oct. 20 at the Olde Town Fall Festival. Volume 1 is of spring-blooming wildflowers and volume 2 is of summer and fall blooms.

The book signing will be held at Nature Seen Gallery and Frame Shop in Olde Town. All wildflower images are in full color.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His email is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.