Tuesday, October 8, 2013

independence ink

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

A remarkable declaration of independence that was first recorded with fermented berries.

Plump and red, filled with juice. The berries of pokeweed a.k.a. poke are ripening in the Tennessee Valley. Although they are toxic and inedible, we have found other uses for the juicy red fruits.

Collected and mashed, they yield a red ink or dye that was once used by Native Americans to decorate their horses.

But, as it so happens, another folk name for the plant is "inkberry." In 1776, the framers of the American Declaration of Independence—Mr. Jefferson, et al—used a small pot of fermented pokeberry juice to draft the document. It must have originally appeared as though it was scribed in blood, as did many letters written home by soldiers in the field during the American Civil War. After it ages, pokeberry ink turns a lovely shade of brown.

Now that I have ripe poke berries all around me, do I have anything important to declare? Any pursuit of happiness that needs announcing?

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