Pass the Milkweed, Please!   11 comments


The Shakers found Milkweed, “Valuable in amenorrhea, dropsy, retention of urine, dyspepsia, asthma, and scrofulous diseases.” (1)  I could not find another reference to milkweed being used medicinally and am going to venture to guess that the milky sap (most likely, the sought after, source of alkaloids) was ineffective and/or too toxic for safety.

Oxford American Dictionary sees Milkweed to be, “any of several wild plants with milky juice.” (2) How confusing is that!?!?! Note to self: do not look up plants in the dictionary!

Milkweed’s, Asclepias syriaca, little pea-shaped buds; and  the yummy flowers are easy to find, collect and process.  Many folks eat young  Milkweed shoots (meristems).  I do not; for several reasons.  In the Spring, when shoots are shooting, there are MANY shoots, shooting.  Many of the new shoots look identical to other, toxic shoots.  Most of the identifiable features are in rapid transition.  Sometimes it comes down to, ‘Do I eat this now, or wait for another, soon to develop, tasty, plant part?’  With Milkweed, I like the buds and flowers, far better than the shoots.  To be honest, I find the shoots to be unpleasant (yet, incredibly beautiful); even after 6 rapid changes of boiling water.  And, most importantly, there’s the alkaloid latex factor.  I don’t like the way it feels on my skin and can not imagine it doing anything good for my insides.  The young shoots do have less latex than the mature stalks; and proper harvesting and preparation render a “safe” meal.  I just don’t care to deal with it.

And, I love the fuzzy buds and find the flowers as fascinating as bees and butterflys do!

Common Milkweed’s green to rosey-purplish to pale beige buds and uniquely shaped, fragrant, sticky, flowers, form in domed, often droopy, clusters, in the top leaf axils; from June through August,

atop singular, sturdy, grayish-green 3-4 ft high stalks; full of milky, bitter juice.  This milky, latex juice is mildly toxic, very bitter and horribly sticky.

Be careful of flying predators! Remember, if you get bit or stung, there is always something growing, nearby, to help remedy the painful reaction; such as, Plantain, Plantago spp., Red Clover, Trifolium prastense *, and Yarrow, Achillea millefolium **; any of which can be crushed or chewed and applied to the site for immediate relief.  Thank you Gaia!

Remember to rinse, all you harvest, well, in cold water; and remove any hitch hikers.


Milkweed is a preferred habitat of the Monarch Butterfly; so pick sparingly.  No need to worry, it’s everywhere!  Milkweed doesn’t appear to have a growing preference; I’ve found it on the riverbank, in shade, in full sun, in a very dry field, along the road, even growing in between sidewalk cracks!

Remember, just because it grows on the side on the road, does NOT mean you can pick it there!  Walk back, away from EVERYTHING 50 paces, then pick.  Otherwise, walk away.

Many wild edibles need to have the bitterness cooked out, before they become palatable.  At first glance the process seems to be a giant annoyance.  Be fearless, after a few go rounds, experience will prove the victor and (like everything else) all foraging habits become routine.  To cook Milkweed buds and flowers, I put three pots of water on the stove to boil.  Each pot approximately the same size with approximately the same amount of water, in it.  When all three pots come to a boil, I place the Milkweed into the first pot.  After one and a half minutes drain the Milkweed and quickly return it to the second pot.  After another one and a half minutes drain the Milkweed and quickly return it to the last pot.  Boil for another one and a half minutes, drain and submerge the Milkweed into ice water, to cool, then drain and let dry.  Now the Milkweed is ready to go into my favorite recipe, or be frozen for later use.  I like having several bags of Milkweed “peas” in the freezer; right next to the Wisteria, Wisteria spp.***, and Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale****, ready and waiting for a special occasion, very exotic, very fancy, very fun!  

Remember, pick safe!


I am so grateful for this wonderful bounty.

Hey Nickety!

Just click on any photo to enlarge.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you soon.


 (1) SHAKER Medicinal HERBS, Amy Bess Miller.

Storey Books, 1998

 (2) OXFORDAMERICAN DICTIONARY, Ehrlich, Berg Flexner, Carruth, and Hawkins.

OxfordUniversityPress, 1980

* Red Clover, Trifolium prastense:

 ** Yarrow, Achillea millefolium:

 *** Wisteria, Wisteria spp.:

  **** Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale:

More fun with Milkweed:


11 responses to “Pass the Milkweed, Please!

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Loved this post! Do you have any other milkweed recipe suggestions?

    • Thank you so much. I like to use Milkweed buds where ever peas go. Maybe Steve Brill or Blanche Cybele Derby have other ideas. You could googlethem, and/or, Milkweed recipes. In PETERSON FIELD GUIDES, Edible Wild Plants there are cooking instructions. Please come back and let me know what you find.

  2. I’ve done that with Peterson too (see a new-to-me plant and know I had seen it there).

    I prepare milkweed with two pots of water – one big, and one small. I bring the big one to nearly a boil, and then begin heating the small one (the goal being to get them both to a boil at the same time). Then I toss the milkweed into the small pot, boil for a minute and drain. I use a ladle to transfer water from the big pot to the small one and repeat until I’m out of water – usually after five or six changes. But your method scales easier for large batches, while mine is suited only for a small batch.

  3. Pingback: You Say Butterflyweed, I Say Pleurisy Root! « Forageporage's Blog

  4. Pingback: Survival of the Fittest; Inside a Milkweed Pod. « Forageporage's Blog

  5. Pingback: Walking The Wareham « Forageporage's Blog

  6. Reblogged this on Forageporage's Blog and commented:

    It’s Milkweed time, again!

  7. Thanks for adding Wood and Field to your Blogroll 🙂

  8. Pingback: Springing Into Summer, Along the Wareham River. « Forageporage's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: