It’s official. I have finally eaten milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) pods. And the stories are true – they are a fine and tasty vegetable!
By this late summer date, most milkweed seed pods have fully matured and released their dainty seeds and down to the world. “Thanks” to the mowing of the field across from my house, those plants are behind by several weeks. This gave me the perfect opportunity to try the pods.
After three years. I’ve known milkweed seed pods could be eaten for three years. And I only now have actually done so. So much free food available in nature, and somehow even those of us in the know fail to fully appreciate and take advantage of it!
Remember to leave some milkweed pods for insects and seeds for the next generation. Once collected, the pods can be kept in the refrigerator about a week.
I harvested pods of different sizes for the two recipes I wanted to sample: smooth, small pods for the Roasted Common Milkweed Pods recipe on page 99 of Forage, Harvest, Feast (yes, that book again), and larger but still tender ones for Stuffed Milkweed Pods.
One challenge. If you’ve read this blog a while, you know I don’t eat grains (anymore), except on very rare occasions. And both recipes call for breadcrumbs. Here is my go-to replacement for breadcrumbs in recipes (and also why I describe my dietary habits as “primal” rather than “paleo” – I just can’t give up the dairy!).
For each 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, mix thoroughly:
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (the good stuff)
- 1/4 tsp Magic Mushroom Powder
No, it’s not identical to bread crumbs, but it’s super tasty so – close enough!
(In the future, I hope to replace almond flour with locally foraged or grown hazelnut and acorn flour for a more sustainable and lower energy option.)
I blanched all the milkweed pods in boiling water for two minutes. The Stuffed Pods recipe didn’t say how long to boil the pods for, so I opted to use the same time as Viljoen’s recipe for simplicity. Once the pods were blanched, dipped in cold water, and draining in the colander, it became very easy to separate the “stuffing” candidates from the “roasting whole” candidates. In addition to being larger, the former retained their shape after blanching, whereas the latter collapsed in on themselves and shriveled slightly.
To prepare a milkweed pod for stuffing, find the seam and squeeze slightly to pop it open along that line. Use your fingers to pull out the white silk and immature seeds. The pods were still soggy inside, so I placed them open-side-down on a towel to continue draining while I prepared the stuffing. I gently squeezed the smaller, whole pods over the sink to remove additional liquid from them as well.
I must have overstuffed the pods, because the recipe calls for 20 pods but I was only able to fill 11.
As I researched recipes, I was intrigued to learn that Alan Bergo from the Forager Chef blog thinks milkweed pods weren’t worth the trouble to stuff. Mine were all about three to four inches long, and were perfect for the role.
I arranged all the pods – whole and stuffed – on a rack over a cookie sheet, and roasted them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Yes, I know the Stuffed Pods recipe said 375, but I couldn’t bring myself to run the oven for twice as long to cook all the pods! And they came out just fine despite the extra 25 degrees.
And they were positively delicious.
My kids wouldn’t try them, of course. But my husband and I ate as many as we could without making ourselves sick! Both recipes are best served warm, so if you are preparing them for a party or get together (assuming anyone has those anymore, given COVID…), make sure to time everything so they can be eaten almost as soon as they come out of the oven.
One final observation about the whole roasted pods. The immature silk and seeds inside the pods gives them an unexpected chewy texture. Dare I say, almost cheesy. The additional texture made the pods even more enjoyable to eat. I’d definitely add them to our vegetable side dish rotation … if I thought my kids would ever once try them!
Originally, I envisioned dining on the milkweed pods while daintily sipping my milkweed cordial. I am sorry to say, I really, really messed up on that particular beverage. It stayed out a little too long, as I waited… and waited… and waited for the cordial to get bubbly enough to push up the flowers the way Viljoen describes in the recipe. As a result, the cordial ended up with a distinct vinegar flavor. Apparently this can be done on purpose, and can be very tasty and used in recipes – she even provides instructions for this very approach – but the drink I ended up with was not what I’d had in mind!