Until recently, milkweed was considered a noxious weed and we were discouraged from allowing it to grow in order not to harm livestock. Now that we are encouraged to grow it to save the monarch butterflies, it has really taken off – at least in my garden. I am referring to common milkweed (asclepias syriaca), which is only one of over 100 existing varieties, many of which are toxic. I have written about using all parts of the plant, shoots, leaves, buds and pods, but if you are unfamiliar with this plant its distinguishing features are as follows:
- an upright plant about 2-5 ft tall
- a milky substance oozes out of torn leaves or stem
- umbels of pink flowers, 2-4 in. wide, grow from the axils off the upper leaves
- in mid-summer pods grow from the little flowers of the umbels in a tight cluster
The pods are filled with a tight wad of seeds attached to a fine, white, silky thread-like material which will be released and dispersed by the wind. However, when small (about 1-1 1/2 inches long) they are edible as long as they are boiled first for about three minutes, at which point they can be frozen for later use. The ones I used are pictured here with a 25 cent coin to give you an idea of the size.
I decided to roast them and make an Asian inspired dish with a spicy, sweet sauce. The sauce can be made in a few minutes and altered to suit the level of spiciness you are comfortable with. Served with noodles or rice, it makes a wonderful vegetable side dish or a complete vegan meal.
Spicy Roasted Milkweed Pods
1 lb milkweed pods
oil for coating
1/4 cup palm sugar
1 clove garlic
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp hot chili sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup soya sauce
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
Cook the pods in boiling water for three minutes, strain and cool under cold running water. Toss them in just enough oil to coat. Lay them on a baking sheet and roast in a 425 F oven for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Place the rest of the ingredients, except the sunflower seeds, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved, lower the heat and simmer for two minutes. Toast the sunflower seeds in a pan for a few minutes until they begin to brown. To serve, pour the sauce over the roasted buds and sprinkle with the sunflower seeds.
Everything can be made in advance and heated up at the last minute. After roasting them, I put some aside, sprinkled with some salt flakes and served them as I would padron peppers. Related Posts: Stuffed Milkweed Pods; Buffalo Style Milkweed Pods</a