One of the things I've been trying to do is utilize perennial food plants that want to grow wild on my property. One great example of this is the common milkweed. It produces and abundance of food through a long period of the growing season. It's final vegetable produced is the immature pods. I will pick them when they are about 3/4 their final size or smaller. In this stage they are actively growing and thus still tender enough to eat.
The problem with eating uncommon food plants is that there really isn't a food culture, complete with recipes, I can use to guide me in their preparation. This is further hampered by the fact that I'm trying to move to a whole food plant based diet where I avoid a lot of added sugar, fat, and salt. There are even fewer recipes for this way of cooking/eating. So on my blog I wanted to share various experiments in cooking I've tried to possibly help out others looking to do similar things.
I just posted a new entry, A Perennial Food Experiment: Stuffed Milkweed Pods and though I'd let you all know about it as it seems like something this crowd might be interested in. I will admit I used a bit of salt in the stuffed pods though. Milkweed pods just seemed like a natural thing to use for stuffing since they have a seam that wants to split open easily, with an inner white that's easy to pull out (and be used as a vegetable in it's own right) leaving an edible shell ripe for filling. I found there was a trick to cooking the pods though in order make them tender enough. While baking long enough in an open pan seemed to work, baking in a covered pan, thus creating a moist heat cooking method, seemed to work best.
Does anybody else have interesting recipes they use for wild foraged or unusual plant foods?
I have to admit I wonder about it though since it's talking about the bitterness of milkweed. That's been a persistent myth likely begun by Euell Gibbons and fully discussed by Samuel Thayer in his first landmark book "A Forager's Harvest". The thought is that Gibbons mistakenly was using the young shoots of the poisonous dogbane which can look similar at that stage. He then developed a very complicated method of boiling to remove this bitterness, and wild food authors have been simply repeating his words ever since. As Thayer puts it, if it's bitter spit it out, you don't have the right milkweed, or milkweed at all. Edible milkweed isn't bitter. It does need to be cooked though. The species I'm using and Thayer is talking about is Asclepias syriaca. I have to admit I have much more trust in Thayer's work, who only writes about foods he really knows, has researched and eaten many times, than I do in a news organization article. I'm not saying the article is wrong, I just have little trust in the news these days.
What I did find interesting in the article was that it mentioned Native Americans would also utilize the boiled roots as food. That is something Thayer never talked about and he usually surprises me with all the uses of a plant there is, even ones I thought I knew well. I may have to look into that more as it would be quite cool to get another food out of the plant, but again I'm a bit suspicious of the news article's accuracy since they were talking about bitter milkweed. Though perhaps the non-edible milkweeds are bitter.