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Common Milkweed: Edible, Wild & Free

Deep down I think we all are instinctively foragers; a vestige of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Ripening now in meadows and along roadsides is a vegetable favored by many wild-food foragers: common milkweed. From emergent shoots on through to flowers and the formation of young pods, milkweed can be cooked and added to just about any meal.

Shoots resembling asparagus appear in May when we salivate at the thought of fresh spring greens. Boiled or stir fried, they taste like a cross between green beans and asparagus. In June, flower heads not yet opened resemble young broccoli heads. Flower head fritters can make for a tasty breakfast, but you can also add them to a stir-fry as one of several ingredients alongside rice, garlic, tomatoes and onions. A Chicago chef, responding to a challenge to prepare milkweed for all meals, created milkweed flower infused ice cream and a milkweed rum cocktail. Young pods form in mid-July and are edible up to about two inches in length. The silk inside these pods can also be extracted as a creamy substance with a cheese-like flavor. 

When foraging for any wild edible, always make sure your plant ID is accurate. Common milkweed is easily identified especially in its flowering and seed pod stages. There are a few other milkweeds--bitter in taste--but they don't spread to form large communities like the common milkweed does. This summer, tap your inner forager with these wild greens. They're edible, wild, and free!