Milkweed

by | May 22, 2019 | Foraging

Asclepias syriaca aka Milkweed. As seen here milkweed gets its name from the milky sap that it bleeds when damaged. When raw milkweed is slightly toxic but the toxicity in completely neutralized with cooking. Simply blanch it and it’s perfectly safe to eat.

Milkweed has 1 central stalk that can reach heights of 4 feet. Its leaves are opposite each other and covered in tiny velvety hairs. The leaves are oval with smooth edges. The unopened flower buds are my favorite part to eat, they are flavored like a combination of broccoli and asparagus on steroids with a deep umami taste.

Be mindful when you harvest milkweed. It is endangered in some places. Only harvest it if you come across a sizable patch. There’s no need to take the whole plant. Just cut off some, not all, of the smaller leaves or flower buds. If properly pruned in this manner you will encourage the growth of 2 new flowering heads from where you cut. Milkweed is the main source of food for Monarch butterfly caterpillars and milkweed beetles so be on the lookout for them when you harvest.

Milkweed does have a poisonous lookalike, Dogbane. Dogbane main stalk will set branches, Milkweed will not. Dogbane lacks the velvety hairs that milkweed has and its leaves and stalks are smooth. Dogbane has small clusters of tiny white flowers and lacks the velvety fuzz that milkweed has whereas milkweed has big clusters of large reddish-pink flowers. Both Dogbane and Milkweed have a milky sap so it’s best to wait until you see flowers before harvesting it. Look for milkweed at Larder!

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