Sunday, June 10, 2012

Milkweed buds with ginger and soy

***Asclepias syriaca - common milkweed

It has taken me a couple of seasons to come to grips with milkweed buds. The secret is in the drying, once cooked, or they tend to be soggy. I have found that all the blanchings and boilings sometimes recommended are not necessary. Cooked in boiling water until barely tender, refreshed in very cold water and then dried (I roll them in clean kitchen towel) they are ready for whatever your hungry heart may fancy.

This has to be the messiest plant to collect. The latex flows freely once the milkweed has been cut; a photographer's nightmare: sticky camera. I tend to cut about 4" - 5" of stalk and the topmost leaves with my buds, and arrange them all cut-side down in a paper bag, so that I don't get stickier every time I add another stem. I also check carefully for monarch butterfly (or ladybug!) larvae on the leaves that are attached to the stalk. And I leave two bud clusters for every one that I harvest. Later I might want flowers, or pods.

At I home I keep my buds in cool water if I am not going to use them at once. They'll stay fresh like this for days. Before cooking, though, I submerge them in a deep water bath to which I have added a lot of salt. If there are any small insects or critters left in the buds, they scarper, muttering imprecations and wondering how the hell they got to Henry Street.

The boiling water dissipates the sticky latex at the cut ends. I don't think that steaming would have the same effect. Once the stems - with top leaves and buds still attached - have been cooked, refreshed and thoroughly dried, they are ready for this treatment:

Heat three tablespoons of soy sauce in a pan with half a teaspoon of sugar. Add a lime's juice. Now add about two tablespoons of finely julienned ginger. Cook gently for five minutes, topping with a little water whenever the intensely flavoured liquid threatens to evaporate. Add the milkweed buds and stems. Toss several times until heated through and drenched in the soy mixture.

Serve hot or cold.

***The milkweed is question is common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Do not confuse it with dogbane, Apocinum cannabinum, below. In bud, some people might. I did a double take. There are many differences but the obvious one is that dogbane has reddish-maroon stems that branch distinctly. Milkweed's stems are green.

Before you collect and eat your own milkweed, read this article by Sam Thayer.


  1. Beautiful idea! I also like to eat the young pods. I admire your blog, and the foraging pieces in Edible.

  2. Thank you, Laura. Coming from you, a great compliment.


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