Sunday, July 18, 2010

oh noble milkweed

Is there any edible plant more versatile and obliging than the noble milkweed? (rhetorical question)

Euell Gibbons dubbed the cattail "the supermarket of the swamp" for its many edible parts, but I worship at the altar of Asclepias syriaca, the common milkweed. I've extolled its virtues here before, and last night I fell in love with yet another aspect of this delicious plant: the young seed pods.

Michael and I are usually in Santa Fe this time of year, which means we ALWAYS miss the milkweed pod harvest. I've been looking forward to it for years, and was thrilled yesterday to find a large field with plenty o' pods just the right size for picking. And what is just the right size, you ask? From nubbins to about 1.5 inches long, says Sam Thayer. And I trust Sam Thayer.

After bringing the pods home, I cleaned them,

blanched them,

tossed with olive oil and a few cloves of minced garlic, then finished with butter, S&P, and a dusting of parmesan.

Like the other edible parts of the milkweed (shoots and immature flower buds) the pods had a green bean-y flavor, but that doesn't do them justice. The texture is soft and chewy, and the taste is fresh and green.

I like my first experience with any wild food to give me a realatively pure taste of the plant itself, and now that I've got that under my belt, I'm thinking stir fried milk weed pods teriyaki, milk weed pod curry, stewed milk weed pods w/tomatoes and onions. I'm open to suggestions, people.

Addendum: Foraging companion Mark was a little more adventurous and picked some larger buds (up to 2.5 inches long), making sure they were soft and springy despite the larger size. He reports them to be as delicious as the smaller buds, so next time I'll give them a try, too.


At July 18, 2010 at 1:34 PM , Blogger Marie said...

The cleaning. In the after picture they look sort of downy and white - did you pull any fibers, or skin off, to expose that?

And they look wonderful.

At July 18, 2010 at 1:37 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

No, they have a downy, soft fuzziness to them which doesn't wash off but boils away in the blanching.

At July 18, 2010 at 11:16 PM , Blogger meemsnyc said...

I've never eaten milkweed before. Looks interesting.

At July 19, 2010 at 8:29 AM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

Looks delicious!

At July 19, 2010 at 9:36 AM , Anonymous Mark said...

I picked with Ellen and they are indeed delicious ... I simply panned them in butter after blanching: yum. I'm thinking pickles, too, if I can get back out there soon. I think they'd be lovely roasted or grilled, too.


At July 19, 2010 at 5:37 PM , Blogger SaraGardens said...

Wow, that looks and sounds delicious - I have spent so much time cleaning seed for various Asclepias species, it would never occur to me they had an edible use pre-ripening!

At August 2, 2010 at 4:13 PM , Blogger irini vakalopoulou said...

Hello Ellen,
I'm a gardener from Thessaloniki -Greece. I picked this lovely milkweed from a place next to my house. I keep them fresh for at least one year in a vase with salt for olives.They are delicius in greek salad.
Irini Vakalopoulou

At August 3, 2010 at 8:55 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Yia sou Irini, that is SO interesting! Do you preserve the pods in salt?

At August 6, 2010 at 4:58 PM , Blogger irini vakalopoulou said...

yia so ellen, sory I'm late to response yoy but I worke to the gardens until 10pm .
yes I preserve them only in salt.
When I wont to eat them I only clean them with water.
Your fotos are beautiful.
have a nice day or night.

At August 7, 2010 at 8:30 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Thanks Irini. I spent several summers studying in Thess/niki, and one year I also taught swimming at a XAN camp on Chalkithiki. I have very fond memories of that part of the world.

At August 31, 2010 at 2:09 PM , Blogger molly said...

i've GOT to turn forager.
your posts make me envious.
would you and mark come out to SF and help?!


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