Come June, there is one vegetable that I look forward to eating in abundance and that's milkweed. Although technically not a vegetable, milkweed's chunky flowers are a satiating and delicious treat that I'd match up against any farm grown produce.
Asclepias syriaca or common milkweed is a versatile plant in which just about every part of the plant, depending on the season, has a use. In the spring, young shoots can be harvested, blanched, then treated like broccoli. The flowers again, once blanched, can be cooked in a variety of ways. Towards the fall young pods can be prepared similar to okra and once the mature stalk dries out in the late fall, can be used as fiber.
No matter how I prepare milkweed shoots or flowers, I always blanch them in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes. Some people can get an upset stomach from under cooking so the blanching beforehand helps make eating them a more enjoyable experience.
It is important to note that the Monarch butterfly loves milkweed too, so lets not over harvest any one are just because we love wild food. Also, to make sure milkweed continues it's life cycle, we want to be sure not to over harvest all the flowers on the plant. A sustainable way to harvest the flowers is to take half or less of the from each plant.
For additional info regarding identification, uses, and preparation, please review Ancestral Plants by Arthur Haines.
Top 5 Ways to Eat Milkweed Flowers
1. Frittatas - We generally always have an abundance of eggs, so the frittata is one of our go to meals, especially during the warmer months of the year. Check out our recipe HERE and replace one of the vegetables with blanched milkweed flowers.
2. Blanched w/ Butter - One of the easiest and tastiest ways to eat milkweed flowers is to first blanch the flowers, then top with a touch of sea salt and a good sized dab of compound butter.
4. Fritters - We don't eat a lot of fried foods, but on occasion, it's a delicious treat. Be sure to use a heat friendly fat to fry in like lard, rendered suet, or coconut oil. Try this recipe and replace the dandelion flowers with blanched milkweed flowers.
5. Pickle - Although I love consuming milkweed flowers in the summer months, they make for a special treat come January. Putting up a case or two of pickled flowers will add a little taste of sunshine once roots and squashes take over the kitchen. Click HERE for the recipe to make your own pickled milkweed flowers.
If you want to try out the Pickled Milkweed Capers recipe, check out my Culture of Personality Recipe book HERE.