One of my favorite reasons for eating a seasonally based diet is the ability to look forward to certain ingredients come into season. While many grocery stores and supermarkets provide the ability to eat nearly any common ingredients 365 days a year, the desire to do so has become less and less since shifting the way I think about food. Eating locally grown/raised ingredients at the height of their season are the most flavorful, nutritious, and containing just what you need in that given time period.
By late June, there is one plant that seemingly thrives on our property and provides several weeks worth of meals. That ingredient is the flower buds of the common milkweed. 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 asparagus. The flowers again, once blanched, can be cooked in a variety of ways, providing a broccoli-like texture. Towards the fall young pods can be prepared similar to okra and once the mature stalk dries out in the late fall, they 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 undercooking so the blanching beforehand helps make eating them a more enjoyable experience. As with all wild foods, it's important to harvest milkweed in a sustainable manner. Harvesting less then half of the flowers on each plant will ensure that the plant may continue its lifecycle.
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.