This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Common Milkweed

  When I first moved to NC,  I brought a bunch of plants with me that I knew I just didn't want to be without, not knowing if if I would find them around my new home. One of those plants was Common Milkweed. Milkweed is a beautiful and useful plant and is important to helping Monarch Butterflies recover their numbers from the onslaught of poisons used to eradicate the "weed" they need to reproduce. 
 I put the Milkweed in my garden till I could figure out where I wanted it permanently. Big mistake!  Turns out Milkweed is a persistent plant, and any small piece of root left behind will soon be many plants. So, for 4 years now every Spring I have to dig up the young shoots infiltrating my Tomato beds.
  I had never eaten the actual Milkweed plant before, though in the late summer I have eaten the immature seedpods. So this year I decided to give them a try.
  First of all Milkweed can be mildly toxic, so it has to be handled carefully to make it safe to eat. Boiling the plant in many changes of water removes the treat of toxicity. The procedure is a bit tricky. You need to have two pots of water on the boil at all times because you don't want to add cold water to the hot plants and have to start the boiling process from scratch each time. Once the water reaches a boil, let the plants simmer for a few minuets than drain. Immediately add fresh boiling water to the pot and simmer again for a few minutes. Continue till you have done this at least 3 times and on the last change, simmer till tender and discard the water.
 As you can see in the photo there was alot of white at the base of the plant that was underground when I pulled them up. This was the part I tasted first, and was very disappointed that the bitter principal had not been removed to my liking. Thinking the experiment was a failure, I tried the green part next and was happy that it was quite palatable.  I cut all the white off the plants and enjoyed the rest of the greens with a little butter. I ate them about 3 hours ago and I'm not dead yet so I figure it was a success! Actually, I'm not trying to scare anyone, the plants are not that toxic, I just want to emphasize the need to handle the plants safely.
  My conclusion is  that the amount of work it takes to make the plant palatable is not worth the effort unless you have alot of milkweed to make it worth your while or you are in a survival situation and need any food you can find. But I am glad I finally gave it a try, any Ethnobotanical Pursuit is a good Ethnobotanical Pursuit .


  1. seems there is a lot of controversy surrounding the toxicity of common milkweed. There are a few sources that say something to the contrary about it being so poisonous and a simple 3 minute boil is all thats needed. As the issues seem to stem from an intolerance or allergy, or from one of the varieties of milkweed(thin leaved versions).

    1. Hey Evan, thanks for stopping by.
      Yes, some plants have a lot of controversy surrounding them and that is why I have a million plant books! I also rely on teachers that teach traditional uses of plants. Anyone can be allergic to a wild plant or plant family as easily as one from the store.
      You also mention the "thin leaved versions", I stay away from them also as most are toxic and can easily be mistaken for plants such as Dogbane which is quite toxic (hence the name)
      Also, common names can be deceiving as the change from region to region, maybe I should start including Scientific Names with my posts.