Thursday, May 29, 2014

The wild pantry

Picking milkweed

Stolen from the Frenchman's blog, where he wrote a very good post about our woodland weekend.

The farmer was bemused when we asked to collect milkweed (Ascepias syriaca) in his cow pasture. It is considered a real weed in farming parts and is often destroyed. I hope I persuaded him to try some. I cooked several batches yesterday in three different ways and have confirmed it as my favourite wild vegetable (I think I say that about Japanese knotweed in early spring, too, don't I?). It is easy to prepare - drop into boiling water for no more than four minutes - and it has a very good flavour and texture.

Common milkweed with miso mayonnaise

And if you are about to get hysterical about monarch butterflies, here is list of just some of the species milkweed their larvae feed on. My botanist friend tells me this milkweed is abundant in the area.

My feeling is that if we can persuade farmers that milkweed has cash crop potential, there will be more of the plant for everyone. The milkweed colonies can be managed so that shoots can be harvested in mid spring, and buds in late spring. The sweet flowers and later pods are also very useful, and the plants that are allowed  remain for the following year's crop can feed the monarch babies.

6 comments:

  1. one of the greatest natural wonders i've ever witnessed was a mass monarch migration, right in one of the canyons of manhattan. no one else seemed to notice the hundreds of butterflies just meters above their heads. people should be planting milkweed in their gardens, for whatever reasons.

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    1. That's a wonderful story, anonymous.

      If I had a sunnier garden I would definitely plant milkweed - many to choose from, but I'd love the tall Asclepias syriaca and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), which is statuesque

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  2. I usually hold out for the buds but you've convinced me to try some shoots this year - heading out right now in search of them!

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    Replies
    1. The buds are good, as you know, but the shoots have won me over. Tell me what you find! I'm going to experiment with the young leaves from the shoots, today.

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  3. I've never tried it before! I'll have to !

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