Foraging: Collecting and Cooking Milkweed

 

Common Milkweed flower.

Common Milkweed flower.

Foraging is an important skill to learn for preparedness, thrifty living, and self sufficiency. Please use a reliable field guide to edible wild plants when you search for wild foods. Also stop by and read my posts ‘Foraging for Burdock and Making Carduni‘ and ‘Growing Lambs Quarters in My Garden.

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Foraging for Milkweed

When I first read that milkweed was edible, I was quite skeptical. I remember reading that Monarch butterflies ate the milk weed leaves not only for food but also for the poison that would render them inedible to predators. But the field guides are telling me it’s edible…hmmmm. After reading that common milkweed is edible in a number of different books, I decided to give it a try. Guess what? It’s delicious!


I only foraged a small amount of the edible shoots in our area. They aren’t overly abundant and I don’t want to harvest all of it, leaving the Monarch butterflies without enough nursery plants for their next generation.
Common Milkweed in the spring.

Common Milkweed in the spring.

 

I think I’ll save seed from some wild plants to scatter around the edges of our property to start a new supply of these tasty plants. You can eat the tender young shoots, new growing tips of somewhat older plants, the flower heads, immature seed pods, and the silk from mature pods for you table. I’m looking forward to trying the flowers, seed pods, and silk later this summer.


Braised milkweed shoots with a spinach salad.

Braised milkweed shoots with a spinach salad.

 

Cooking Milkweed Shoots

If you were surviving out in the wild, you would probably just simmer the edible parts of common milkweed in a small pot of water or maybe roast it over a fire. Since I have the advantage of a stove, I chose to braise the shoots in a small amount of water and then added a drizzle of Thai peanut sauce for flavor. It was really good!

Peterson’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants recommends cooking the milkweed in several changes of water to remove the bitter flavor. I didn’t do this and found that there was no bitter flavor at all, as reported by Samuel Thayer in his book Nature’s Garden.

 

Side view of common milkweed.

Side view of common milkweed.

Make sure you have properly identified wild plants before you eat them! There are plants that could make you sick or kill you if you consume them.

Have you ever eaten milkweed? Do you have a favorite way to cook it?

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