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Copyright:  Mike Sillett


1. Intro
2. Equipment
3. Procedure

Photo of a group of Common Milkweed Pods - Asclepias syriaca.

Common Milkweed / Butterfly Flower / Silkweed
Asclepias syriaca

1. Intro

If you are a well versed forager you know now that the Common Milkweed plant has had a bad rap since Euell Gibbons wrote about it several decades ago in Stalking the Wild Asparagus ( 1962 ) . If you don't know that read on.

Euell Gibbons wrote that there are toxins in the plant that renders it bitter and that those toxins could only be neutralized or expelled by three separate boilings. People have ignored common milkweed for decades after that, not wishing to mess with a potential edible that took so much preparation before you could eat it.
Many keyed in on the word 'toxins' and decided it was too toxic to eat.
The toxicity has since been shown to be minimal in certain plant parts and that the complicated boiling process has since been shown to be unnecessary.

The theory goes that Mr. Gibbons had made an error with regard to plant identification and did his preparation and tasting with something other than common milkweed. It is conjectured that he prepared dogbane ( Apocynum cannabinum ), which is very similar in appearance.
However the myth he created persisted for decades.

Samuel Thayer, The Forager's Harvest, is one of the people that has shown that common milkweed needs no special preparation such as that Mr. Gibbons perpetuated. Since Mr. Thayer many foragers have been enjoying common milkweed just as they do with hundreds of other wild edibles.

I definitely get my share every year.
I like it in stew, soup, salsa and in my canned 'Peppers & Pods' ( Hungarian hot-wax banana peppers & milkweed pods ).

Since I really take advantage of the bounty of pods out there in mid Summer I have come up with this process to stock up.

2. Equipment

Cutting board
Freezer bags

3. Procedure

Pick the pods in mid summer when they are just starting out. They will be firm then and will be for a couple of weeks. The inside of the pod will contain the white matter ( also edible ) that will eventually become the seeds and their parachutes.

Photo showing preferred pod size for eating - Asclepias syriaca.
The white liquid is latex. Just ignore it. It's sticky but it won't bother anything.

I am a bit picky when it comes to the items I plan to eat so I take some time to take each pod from the bag, check it out for bad spots, bug holes, spider webs, etc. Then I cut the ends off.
I like the ends cut off so that after blanching all the water from the blanching can drain out. They will be put in the freezer so I want all water out of them.

Photo showing common milkweed pods being sliced - Asclepias syriaca.
Cutting off the ends of the pods.

Wash them up real good and then dump them all into boiling water. The water will stop boiling for a bit after the dump.
When it returns to a boil set the timer for 5 minutes.

Photo of a group of Common Milkweed Pods being dumped into a pot of boiling water - Asclepias syriaca.
Dumping all the trimmed pods into boiling water.

Dump them all in a colender and let them drain and cool off so they can be handled. Go have a cup of coffee.

Photo of a group of blanched Common Milkweed Pods draining in a colender - Asclepias syriaca.
Draining all the blanched pods in a colender..

Cut the pods into slices.

Photo showing blanched common milkweed pods being sliced prior to being packaged into ziplock freezer bags - Asclepias syriaca.
Slicing the pods into sizes that will be used in recipes.

Throw the slices into a colender to let them drain some more.

Photo of a group of blanched slices of common milkweed pods draining in a colender - Asclepias syriaca.
Pod slices being allowed to drain a bit longer before packing up.

Package the slices into baggies in portions that would be appropriate for recipes you would use them in. Then put those full baggies into a larger ziplock bag. Label them.

Photo of a batch of blanched common milkweed pods all packaged in freezer bags - Asclepias syriaca.
Packaged common milkweed pod slices ready to freeze until needed.

The pod slices, like shown, can be used to add to various soups and stews. Throw them in with a roasting chicken or a pot roast.
Do remember though that they were only blanched for 5 minutes. They will need futher cooking if you plan to add them to canned soup or something else that is already cooked and just needs heating. Another 5 minute boil or steam will finish them up before you dump them in to pre-cooked meals.


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