Foraging: Collecting and Cooking Milkweed

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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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6 comments on “Foraging: Collecting and Cooking Milkweed

  1. Pingback: Foraging for Free Food – The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

  2. janet pesaturo

    LOL, I just posted on eating milkweed, too. We boil the shoots, but only for 5 minutes, not the 20 minutes that Sam Thayer recommends. But I got the sense that he says that just to be on the safe side. I don’t find the young shoots to be bitter even when raw. I hope that means they are not harmful in moderate quantities. Boiling for 20 minutes ruins the texture.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hey, great minds think alike, Janet 🙂 I didn’t cook that long either. I just cooked until tender. I also didn’t boil, just braised them in enough water to keep them from burning and sticking. I didn’t taste any bitterness either… And I am using stalks that are a bit older. Thanks for sharing you experience!

      Reply
  3. di

    30 plus years ago, I had collected a big bag of the white fluff, minus the seeds from the seed pods to make a vest for my husband. There was an article in a magazine that showed how to use the white fluffs instead of down as filling in the vest. At the time I thought it was going to be the perfect Christmas gift . Many moves with unfinished projects over the years it never did get completed. Needless to say I still get reminded that I never finished that vest. Enjoyed your article, never knew I should have been eating them !

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Well, I can’t point any fingers at people for unfinished projects, Di! Lol! But it sounds like a great idea. I think I read that they used the fluff for life preservers too.

      Samuel Thayer reports that adding the milkweed fluff to foods gives it a cheesy texture. I want to try it! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Foraging: Collecting and Cooking Milkweed | Around The Cabin

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