Ma-Hinch /Milkweed/ Asclepias Syriaca

Feeling Wild?

Note: The orange-flowered milkweed, Asclepias Tuberosa is poisonous to humans.  Common milkweed, Asclepias Syriaca is pale pinky-burgundy flowers. You may want to read a very interesting article Check out here.

Foraging as a subsistence method was the primary way of life for indigenous people. How did they figure out which plants were poisonous and which plants were edible?  Most people seem to believe that every tribe must have had to occasionally designate a plant-tasting guinea pig, replacing him or her upon death. Or perhaps there will be another good explanation. But the truth is that knowledge of how to use plants has been handed from one generation to the next for so long that it is impossible to say that the process started at any one point in time – or that it has ever ended. Foragers enjoy a relatively high quality of life, for centuries; they have been eating delicious native fruits to weeds you would never think to eat, like for example the wild milkweed plant. You will find that some books on wild foods recommend boiling milkweed in multiple changes of water to eliminate the “bitterness.” This is not necessary for common milkweed Asclepias Syriaca. Common milkweed contains a small amount of toxins that are soluble in water.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a perennial herb growing from a deep rhizome. The hairy stems are usually solitary from a simple to branched and thickened base, and are 6-20 dm (1.9-6.5 ft) tall. The opposite leaves have broadly ovate to elliptic blades that are 10-20 cm (3.9-7.9 in) long and 5-11 cm (1.9-4.3 in) wide. The leaves are sparsely hairy above and densely hairy below, and the petiole is 0.2-1.4 cm (0.08-0.77 in) long. The inflorescence occurs in the upper leaf axils, and there are 20-130 flowers per inflorescence. The flowers are small, 11-17 mm (0.4-0.7 in), and bloom from May to August. The five petals are green to purple-tinged, and are topped by a crown of five erect lobes that are rose to purple, rarely white. The fruits are spindle-shaped follicles covered with soft hairs. The small, round, hairy seeds are 6-8 mm (0.2-0.3 in) in diameter.

The milkweed plant is the sole food source for the Monarch caterpillar, too. The monarch is one of relatively few butterflies that migrate. Every year, monarchs travel more than 2,000 miles from their summer homes in the United States and Canada to their overwinter grounds in the rainforests of Mexico. If you live in a region with plentiful milkweed plants (save some for the butterflies!), try milkweed flowers and seed pods in casseroles, quiches, soups and omelets. As with all wild plants, use a field guide to ensure proper identification. The milkweed flower clusters and seed pods are best when picked young in the spring; use the boiling water bath method below to get rid of any bitterness. In case you are wondering, cutting the milkweed buds for soup doesn’t kill the plant. It’s a perennial, and will come back just fine the next season. I love butterflies, especially monarchs. We hear about the threats to their survival and wonder how we can help. Putting plants in our gardens that will support both caterpillars and adults is one important way. Also, a responsible forager must remember to leave all plants the ability to re-produce.

(A word to the wise, though: As always, if you’re new to foraging and want to give it a try, please get the correct books or do the research before you venture out.)

Roasted Milkweed Shoots

1 lb of milkweed shoots
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 gloves of garlic, minced
Prosciutto ham
1 lemon
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse clean the shoots. Put the shoots and oil in a plastic bag and rub the bag so that the oil gets evenly distributed. Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt and pepper. Lay the shoots spears out in a single layer in a baking dish or a foil-covered roasting pan. Cut a small portion  of prosciutto into ¼ inch pieces and scatter pieces over the shoots. Place pan in oven and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes until the shoots are lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Drizzle witn a little fresh lemon juice before serving.

Milkweed Flower Quiche

5 eggs
4 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper
1 C. cottage cheese
2 C. shredded cheddar cheese
4 Tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. cooked milkweed flower buds

Heat oven to 350° and grease a 9″ x 9″ pan. Whip eggs until frothy. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the eggs are set and the top is browned.

Happy foraging!

About zoom50

“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease”
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2 Responses to Ma-Hinch /Milkweed/ Asclepias Syriaca

  1. akamonsoon says:

    How interesting. I would have never known that milkweed could be used in cooking. The milkweed flower quiche looks especially good!

  2. zoom50 says:

    Nature is so amazing when you take the time to really look at it. Growing up, I can remember collecting the dry shells for my mother. She used empty milkweed pods to make Christmas ornaments. Exactly, quiche is yummy as well as healthy;)

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