Milking the Milkweed

Small Milkweed Pods

When eating milkweed pods, stick to the smaller ones. Penny to show scale.

The milkweed season is almost over and I am glad to come to the end of my culinary explorations of this friendly yet boring wild plant. (Earlier we examined sautéeing the young stalks, and making a side dish out of the buds.) Today we will look at the pods that form at the end of summer.

Small Milkweed Pods after Cooking

Small milkweed pods boiled, then tossed with parmesan

Once again following the advice of the Forager’s Harvest website, I gathered a number of pods when they were small (none over 2 inches in length). This happened over several days and the ones I had picked stayed fresh in the refrigerator. I boiled them briefly, and tossed with grated parmesan cheese and a bit of salt and pepper. Tasted fine, but not particularly exciting. I then attacked some full-size pods (4 inches or more in length) and peeled them open to reveal the interior silk cushioning the seeds. The forager advised mixing these with hot rice where they take on a texture and appearance like grated cheese; I didn’t try this but did munch on some of the silk and found it satisfactory. If I was starving and found a bunch of these I’d probably eat some, but not with gusto.

Mature Milkweed Pods

Mature milkweed pods, peeled back to show the silk inside.

Looking back, the young stalks are the only stage of the milkweed plant I plan to explore further in coming seasons. Like fiddleheads, ramps and scapes, they signal the beginning of spring and will bring smiles to the faces of your diners and they won’t be particularly disappointed when they taste.

P.S. Here’s a USDA pamphlet on milkweed with more interesting lore. Turns out the roots were used to treat pleurisy in colonial days. So maybe our milkweed explorations aren’t done.

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