The noble milkweed
by Charles McKinney
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!!!