The noble milkweed

by Charles McKinney
(Indiana)

Common milkweed

Common milkweed

The common milkweed is a plant well worth learning.

In the spring when the shoots are ten inches or less in height they can be broken into one inch chunks and boiled in two changes of water then drained, buttered and salted and taste like asparagus.

Later in the year when the pods are approx. one inch long or less they can also be boiled and eaten and taste much like green beans.

The flowers are also edible. Dip in a batter and deep fry them like fritters.





Still later in the year the bast (outer skin of the stems) can be peeled and used to make a high quality cordage useful as thread, fishing line and, if enough stems are available, they can be used to make a passable bow string, fish nets and lashings for shelters.

Be sure that you are harvesting milkweed rather than dogbane, butterfly weed or Joe Pye.

Some say to beware the swamp milkweed as well but if my memory serves me right they are safe to eat too. I mean, I'm still alive and eat 'em almost every spring!!!


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Eating raw milkweed
by: Anonymous

I have eaten milkweed pods raw, and suffered no unpleasant side affects.

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boiling may not be necessary
by: Anonymous

Samuel Thayer, writer of The Forager's Harvest, maintains that all the boiling is an unnecessaary nuisance. He even tried common milkweed RAW and suffered no ill consequences. I tried a taste yesterday, and there is absolutely no bitterness in raw milkweed leaves! Made fritters last night from non-parboiled milkweed flowers, and no ill consequences. In the interst of preserving as many nutrients as possible, I encourage all you milkweed eaters out there to try reducing your boiling, gradually, and give it a taste. If it's still bitter, boil it again, but I bet it won't be! NOT if you have the right plant!

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Eating milkweed for a long time
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I've always boiled the milkweed once (no changes of water) and have never had a problem with the "puke factor". Didn't know such a thing existed. In a survival situation the nutrient content is very important. The more changes of water you boil something in the more nutrients you lose. Since I'm 58 years old and it has never harmed me I'll stick with the one boil. Even then, since I don't drink the water it was boiled in, a lot of the nutrients are lost. I won't go as far as drinking the water. Too much dissolved "latex" in it. The sticky pot is proof of that. Just don't eat milkweed raw and don't confuse a butterfly weed or Joepye weed for milkweed. Some warn to not confuse dogbane for milkweed. I've never noticed a similarity in the two except for the milky sap. Maybe the guy was thinking of swamp (narrow leaf)milkweed. Confusing dogbane for milkweed will ruin your whole day. No doubt about it. :)

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Preparation of milkweed stalks
by: PJC

Be aware that there is a biological standard called The Bluejay Puke Factor. This was standardized by measuring how much swallowtail larva it takes to make a bluejay puke. The larvae live on and eat milkweed. This test does not have wide application.

Boiling the weed in two (three is better) changes of water removes the sap making the weed palatable. This is important - NEVER WASH OR PUT PICKED MILKWEED IN COLD WATER! This fixes the nauseating factor. Rain has no effect because it does not reach the sap. I Have 2 pans of water already boiling before putting the milkweed in. Start with one, boil, drain the weed and dump it in the 2nd pan. Each boil does not have to be long, a minute or so. When done, put butter or vinegar on it. My kids, when young, loved it.

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Good deal
by: Anonymous

Milkweed is one of my favorites! Good to see someone likes them too.

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