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.
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