Wild About - Milkweed Pods

*This is a re-post of a feature I did last year about this time.  It is the peak of the growing season here, and I am quite happily spending nearly every minute of my free time out wandering in the mountains.  I hope you enjoy revisiting this delicious food with me.*

Eat milkweed pods? Yes! And they're delicious! It used to be that I'd pick wild asparagus in the spring, and wild fruits in the fall, with no harvest in between. But now, each week brings an exciting new find. Foraging has opened a whole world of new food possibilities. And it's really a dream come true for me, as someone who loves to cook, to experiment with all of the new wild foods I've picked.

Did you get to try milkweed buds when they first emerged last month? Milkweed plants have since flowered in a starburst of purple, and dropped their blooms. Now, there is another tasty little gem emerging from the plant - the pod.

I was afraid the phrase "it tastes like asparagus" would be my overused descriptive phrase for foraged green things, much like "it tastes like chicken" for exotic meats. I do love asparagus, but it's nice to appreciate variation in tastes. The milkweed pod brings a new flavor to the party; I actually think it tastes a lot like okra. I let that flavor-comparison guide how I treated it in recipes.

When you are hunting milkweed pods, try to choose pods that are about 2" or smaller. Larger pods do get tough. Have a peek inside of one of the larger pods you are harvesting. If the seeds and silk still look moist, you're good to go. If the seeds and silk are starting to dry out, or if any of the seeds are turning even slightly brown, you won't enjoy eating it. Another good test to make sure you are harvesting the best milkweed pods for eating is to give them a gentle squeeze along the natural seam. If the pod pops open easily, it's probably too mature to make good eats.

It's a good idea when you're collecting milkweed pods to either use gloves, or take along a wet cloth to clean your hands. The white milk they release is incredibly sticky, and leaves you looking like you've been attacked by a bottle of Elmer's.

As always with foraging, don't take more than you can use, and never wipe out an area. Be kind to the plants themselves, as well as the other plants and animals in the ecosystem who depend upon them.

Once you've got your milkweed pods home, give them a rinse, and clean them of debris and dried flowers. Then, plunge them into boiling salted water for a minute or two. Drain and pat dry, and you're ready to prepare some fantastic recipes.

One of the greatest assets of milkweed pods is the built-in pocket. I thought they must be a natural for stuffing, and boy oh boy, stuffed milkweed pods are an out-of-the-park home run. I like to think of them as milkweed pod poppers.

Start with your parboiled milkweed bud. Make a lengthwise slit down the side, and use a spoon or your finger to dig out the seeds and silk (these are yummy, eat 'em!). Next, fill with your favorite stuffing. I made three fillings - sliced jalapeno and oaxaca cheese, goat sausage, and goat cheese/ roasted red pepper/ basil leaf. To close a stuffed pod, break a toothpick in half, and use each half to pin the pod closed, making and "x." Since the sausage-filled pods contained raw meat, I let them slow cook in a skillet, with the lid on. For the cheese-filled pods, I dipped them into thin homemade yogurt (buttermilk would work), and then into seasoned cornmeal (cornmeal + copious amounts of powdered onion and black pepper + a sprinkling of salt), and shallow-fried them over medium heat until browned all over. I wish I had a picture of these, but they got polished off before I could get my camera.

Have you ever had fried okra? I'm not from the south, so the only time I've ever had it is at the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain. This next recipe, I'm almost certain, could be passed off as fried okra. Take your parboiled milkweed pods (the ones which are too small to be stuffed), and slice them into rounds. Dredge the slices into the same yogurt and cornmeal mixture as the poppers, but let them sit for a good five minutes so that the cornmeal has time to absorb the yogurt. Shake off any excess cornmeal, and shallow fry (the only reason I shallow fry, instead of deep frying is to conserve my precious lard) until golden on both sides. These were unbelievably good. If you've got any milkweed pod doubters in your camp, try this recipe first.

Finally, for a little variation, I reached for some of my favorite Indian spices. Slice your parboiled milkweed pods diagonally into two or three pieces. In a skillet over medium heat, saute a shallot until soft, then toss in a small dried chile (whole), coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and nigella seeds. When the seeds become fragrant, stir in the sliced milkweed pods, and cook for a few minutes more so that the flavors have time to mingle. This recipe is quick and would make a lovely side dish to any meal.

See how versatile a simple foraged plant can be? Really, the possibilities are endless.

Are you thinking about dipping your toes into the ocean of foraging possibilities? Click here to see some of my foraging successes, and get inspired. Foraging is the ultimate source of local, green, super-nutritious food. Go get your hands on some goodies!

This post is my entry into the Two for Tuesdays blog hop, and Real Food Wednesday.

Comments

  1. I am seriously in AWE of you. Milkweed sounds out of this world, but I don't think I've ever seen it before. The name sounds familiar, but honestly it doesn't look familiar. They're very cool looking...and that last dish with the Indian spices...drooooool :P""""

    ReplyDelete
  2. Seriously butter...I think you need to rename your blog from renderinglard to findingfoodinthedarndestplaces! :) I KNOW i have these pods in my area and I am going to go out in the next day or so and find some~ Thanks for sharing the real food love on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. LOL! Part of me wants to keep these finds all to myself - mine, Mine, MINE! But really, I just want other people to partake of these treasures, and connect with the food, the nourishment, which is all around them! Look! Yummy!

    ReplyDelete
  4. BPB - girl, you are amazing. I don't know that I have ever seen a milkweed pod, maybe when I was little? Do they grow in ditches? Near water? Just randomly? Loving all the links @ Two for Tuesdays!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Christy! If they grow in your area, you're more likely to recognize the dry brown pod which releases all of it's downy fluff in the autumn. We loved to play with them as kids. Milkweed tends to prefer wetter areas, so are more likely to be near ponds of creeks, but I've also seen them growing right next to the sidewalk. They're an important food for butterflies.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Who knew??? There is a whole world of food out there. Thanks for the inspiring post. I'm going to be more aware of my surroundings.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bonnie - It's true! Now that I'm learning to recognize edible plants, I see them at every turn.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Just tried milkweed pods sauteed in duck fat! OMG, I cannot believe I lived that long and never ate them. So good, they do not taste anything like health food, unlike, for example, fiddle-heads. I can't believe restaurants do not market them, the best kept secret in the history of cooking!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ani- I wholeheartedly agree, milkweed pods are a star food. Shhhhh! Don't tell too many people! I'm still seeking out the straglers of the harvest.

    But hey, I've got an oddball sandal that I'd be happy to eat if you cooked it up in your duck fat ;)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh my! This is a fantastic idea. Milkweed Pod Poppers and stuffing them, yummy! I used to pickle them when we lived in the Catskills, and saute them with butter and garlic. Very yummy. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  11. hella- Sigh, kinda missing those milkweed buds, sitting here in a snow storm. Wish I had pickled a few. But they just never seemed to stick around long enough to preserve.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I make a flower essence from milkweed to cool off in the heat of the day. Three drops on my tongue convinces my brain I'm not hot and I experience a gentle flash of coolness.

    Also

    The young shoots, stems, flower buds, immature fruits, and roots of butterfly milkweed were boiled and eaten as a vegetable by various indigenous groups of eastern and mid-western America. The Meskwaki steam the flower buds as a food source; they are nutritious but not considered very flavorful.

    The Cherokee drank an infusion of common milkweed root and virgin's bower (Clematis species) for backaches. The Cherokee, Iroquois, and Rappahannock used the sap to remove warts, for ringworm, and for bee stings. The Cherokee used the plant as a laxative, an antidote for gravel and dropsy, and an infusion was given for mastitis. The Cherokee took an infusion of the root for venereal diseases. The Chippewa made a cold decoction of common milkweed root and added it to food to produce postpartum milk flow. The Iroquois took an infusion of milkweed leaves for stomach medicine. A compound decoction of plants was taken to prevent hemorrhage after childbirth by the Iroquois. The Menominee ate the buds or a decoction of the root for chest discomfort. The Ojibwa used the root as a female remedy. The Potawatomi used the root for unspecified ailments.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Alfred, please tell me how to make milkweed flower essence! I spend most of the summer looking like a melted crayon.

    Thanks for sharing so much great info.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Told you I had a lot of reading to do lol...I have friends coming over for diner and guess what the entre will be...Yep stuffed Milkweed, we are in winter here...where did I get my bounty....I always freeze a few in airthight bags for the winter and been doing it for a few years...always work for me....and they are soooo good in Jan.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm smiling so big right now, because I freeze them, too. Just had some two nights ago.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love them so much (milkpod rellenos--stuffed with cheese and pepper slivers, battered and fried), I planted some in my flower garden as well as foraging them. I hope more people will add these plants to their gardens, not just for their beauty and pod production, but as a critical host plant for monarch butterflies. Milkweed is still abundant, but like everything else is losing habitat. When milkweed goes, so goes the monarch. Plant some dill for the swallowtails, too, as well as butterfly bush and other hosts and nectar-providers, and you'll have a colourful garden in the air as well as on the ground!

    ReplyDelete
  18. That picture of the fried ones is really outstanding.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for sharing! My daughter plays with these pods every year in the backyard - NOW I know what to do with them! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to play with them as a kid, too. They are so lovely and fluffy when they go to seed. But they are also one of my favorite wild foods. I hope you enjoy eating them.

      Delete
  20. I just came to your post and reading above thing it is very impressive me and it is very nice blog. Thanks a lot for sharing this.
    pods moving

    ReplyDelete
  21. Have these growing in my yard. Never knew I could at them. SO cool!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Oh muh gawd, I'm eating my first milkweed pods right now! They're delicious! I found them growing all around the pond behind the house I just moved into.
    I did the nigella/mustard/coriander seed version, and with no mention of what kind of oil to saute them in, I opted for butter. Fabulous flavor, but they really sucked up the butter. I can't wait for more milkweed pods in my life! If I'd known they freeze well, I might have looked further afield for more of them.
    Thanks for this blog post!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I hope you don't mind me referencing this awesome post on my blog. Thank you for this!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Here is the post: http://earthseeddetroit.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-herbal-confessional-herbal-update-3.html

    ReplyDelete
  25. Please do not go out and start picking the milkweed pods. The monarch butterflies depend on milkweed. If we start picking them the butterflies suffer.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I just watched a monarch butterfly laying eggs on my milkweed. She laid them on the PODS, not the leaves! Never saw that before!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts