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Milkweed Buds

milkweed buds milkweed buds ready to harvest (photo by jhy)

Milkweed buds can be harvested when they are still tight like little broccoli florets. Try to get them as early as possible when they have little color other than green. These will have the best flavor. The ones shown are probably as far along in terms of opening as you want (eating the flowers won't hurt you, but the flavor is different from the buds). Even if some of the flowers on a stalk have opened, there may still be buds near the top of a plant that will be fine to take. This is common milkweed, Ascelpias syriaca.

collected milkweed buds and leaves note the milky sap oozing from the cut ends (photo by jhy)

I just snip them off the plant with scissors. You can see that I've also taken some small leaves, which also taste great. The milky sap oozes out of the cut ends, and it is bitter, but cooking will eliminate that problem. Wash the scissors right away if possible, as that sap is like glue!

milkweed buds cooking cooked milkweed buds will turn bright green (photo by jhy)

Boil some water, with or without added salt as you wish, add the milkweed buds and boil gently for 2-3 minutes. They will turn bright green as they cook. Discard the cooking water as it will be bitter. If you are going to add the florets to a soup or stew, I suggest cooking them separately and adding at the last minute so that bitter sap will not leach into your broth.

milkweed buds served on a baked potato milkweed buds as a baked potato topping (photo by jhy)

You can see that tonight I'm using these as a topping for a baked potato, just like broccoli. Add any other toppings you like, or just use the greens. They can be eaten straight as a vegetable, or added to other dishes. The flavor is mild.