Stuffed Milkweed Pods Recipe
>> 4 oz. cream cheese softened
>> 2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
>> 2 tbsp mushrooms, finely chopped
>> 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
>> 1 small jalapeno, finely chopped
>> 2 slices of cooked bacon (optional)
>> 1 tsp salt
>> 1 tsp black pepper
>> 20 milkweed pods
>> grated cheese of your choice
Heat oven to 375°F.
Place milkweed pods in a large pot of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for ten minutes. You will hear popping sounds, this is ok. Remove from stove, drain and let cool.
Place the softened cream cheese in a bowl and mix in all the remaining ingredients. Be sure to blend well and set aside.
Remove the seeds and silk from the boiled milkweed pods. You may have to use a paring knife to split the seed pods. Spoon in some cream cheese filling until the pod is full. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Once completed, take some grated cheese and sprinkle over the pods. Place in oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes. If desired, broil to crisp up the cheese.
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Milkweed is an herbaceous, tall perennial that got its name for its milky sap that contains latex, alkaloids and other compounds. Carl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist (1707-1778), named the genus after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing because of the many folk-medicinal uses for this plant. Milkweed supplies tough fibers for making cords and ropes, and for weaving coarse cloth. Proper identification of this wild plant is very important since it has a poisonous look alike called dogbane.
Milkweed is perhaps most well-known for its seeds; they are flat, 8 mm long, reddish-brown, and have a pappus of silky hair at one end. The seeds are borne in narrow teardrop pods that measure between 12 and 37 cm long. The leaves of this plant provide food for monarch butterfly larvae as a consequence monarch butterflies and their caterpillars love this plant.
The flowers grow in umbels (i.e. are umbrella-like), are purplish-pink in color and occur at the tips of stems and axils of upper leaves.
Milkweed leaves are opposite, large, ranging from 10 to 18 cm long, oval shaped, covered with fine soft hairs, and they are prominently veined.
This plant can grow to be 1.5 metres tall.
Milkweed grows in fields, along roadsides, and generally in dryer locations.
The flower heads can be fried in batter and eaten. The flower buds first appear in early summer and can be harvested for about seven weeks. They look like immature heads of broccoli but have roughly the same flavour as the shoots. These milkweed flower buds are wonderful in stir-fries, soups, rice casseroles, and many other dishes. Milkweed pods are delicious in stew or just served as a boiled vegetable, perhaps with cheese or mixed with other vegetables but be sure you eat only immature pods. Boiled young shoots, unopened flower buds, flowers, and young pods are said to taste as good as asparagus and other cooked greens. The only way to eat milkweed is as a young shoot (under 15 cm).
Fried Milkweed Pods
Late summer is good for a lot of things. Mushrooms are here, parading around in all kinds of shapes and sizes, fruit harvests are well underway, and the getting is good. Greens plants are getting slim though. The watercress has started to come back, and is a few inches tall, but most others, unless they were cut back (I can still harvest milkweed shoots in some areas) especially sunny areas and truly wild spaces, have begun to go to seed and complete their yearly cycle. One of the best, literal wild vegetables is hitting it’s peak though: delicious common milkweed pods of Asclepias syriaca (as well as a select few others like A. speciosa, that I haven’t tried).
After blanching and soaking in buttermilk or egg, fine cornmeal readily clings to them.
Milkweed gives a lot of gifts: shoots, leaves (mostly for purees or as a colorant) young flower buds and their whole apical meristems, as well as flowers that North American Indigenous peoples were said to dry as a food crop. All of those parts are good, but the pods are my favorite. I love my leafy greens, but there’s just something about a feral vegetable that’s so interesting and fun to cook with. I mean, just look at them! They’re so wee. And, they’re mild, tasting, tender and delicious, especially when you soak them in buttermilk and fry them crisp dredged with cornmeal, a la okra.
Common milkweed pods. You want about 1.5-2 inch pods, or slightly larger, but not by much.
The texture, as long as they’re around 1-2 inches long, or even a teeny bit larger, after cooking, is a bit like okra, and I’ve described on menus as wild okra since I bristle at putting the term “weed” anything on a menu, at least menus for civilians (the general populace not familiar with eating wild plants). Just like okra, milkweed pods love to be fried, and the preparation is really simple: take some roughly 1.5-2 inch pods, blanch them in boiling water for a couple minutes, drain well, cool, then soak in buttermilk or beaten egg.
Sometimes we have them as an appetizer, sometimes as a side dish. They’re great alongside a burger with mushrooms and wilted greens.
From there, you take them and dredge in cornflour/fine cornmeal mixed with a few spices (lots of possibilities here, and I’ll go over a few of my favorites) and either shallow or deep fry them and serve with a summer-y dip, or for the ascetic: all by themselves with hot sauce and crunchy salt on the side. It’s one of the wild treats I look forward to every year around this time.
It’s ok to eat milkweed pods, really
As most of us know, humans aren’t the only ones that enjoy milkweed. Monarch butterflies also love milkweed pods too, as well as plenty of other parts of the plant. As much as I love sharing the joy of eating milkweed pods, I don’t do it too much publicly. Besides counting on milkweed pods to be delicious, the other part of the equation you can count on is that people are quick to appoint themselves milkweed police, and insist that if you harvest milkweed pods, (or any part of the plant for that matter) you’re personally responsible for any and all parts of monarch destruction, and that you’re a bad, un-ethical forager, which simply isn’t the truth. Unless you’re going around squishing monarchs with a fly swatter as you pick, there’s nothing wrong with harvesting a few milkweed pods to eat.
There’s plenty of pods to go around, really.
Milkweed stands produce an incredible amount of edible biomass–far more food than you, or a bunch of your friends could likely eat in a large patch. The window for harvesting the pods in itself, also means it would be nearly impossible to harvest all of the pods, even if you tried, since once they’re over 2 inches long, they’ll be tough and inedible for humans, but perfect for monarchs.
Preventing milkweed propagation as you’re eating the fruit that contains seeds I see as a moot point too, since the plant also reproduces via rhizomes under the ground. The last point to consider as I see it, is that milkweed isn’t some obscure rare thing, it’s ubiquitous where I and a lot of other people live, and, it can also be planted in a garden. Just think how much food we could share if everyone planted a couple milkweed plants in their gardens, or helped spread seeds when they see them on a walk in the fall?