Lately I have been writing about weeds which are so plentiful, even invasive, that foraging them can be done with impunity – things like grape leaves, lambsquarters and nettles. Milkweed does not exactly fit into that category. Although they are very plentiful where I live, I treat them with utmost care and encourage their proliferation. The reason for this is that they are valuable sources for the pollinators, especially the monarch butterfly which depends on them for survival. Our fields are a virtual oasis for butterflies next to a dessert of heavily treated cornfields where there is not a healthy weed in sight! I am so hoping the butterflies find their way this summer to our land of plenty. If you are interested in helping save the monarch butterfly, check out this article.
There are many varieties of milkweed, but the one I am talking about is the common milkweed (asclepias syriaca), until recently considered a noxious weed in Ontario but now undergoing a change of status. It was considered noxious because the toxic milky substance is harmful to livestock. However, in light of the importance to the survival of the butterflies, we gardeners are now free to grow them in our gardens.
There are several parts of the plant that are edible, as long as they are harvested at the right time. The young shoots, flowers, and seed pods when still small are all edible, although the usual precautions should be taken when first trying them, i.e. trying a small sample. I pick a few shoots which are growing in place where they interfere with my garden vegetables. In the fields, I pick only one flower or pod of each plant to ensure its survival. It is not something to eat in huge quantities, but if you have access to the plants, small amounts are wonderful to add to your favourite summer dishes at the appropriate times.
Now is the time for the delectable flowers. Last year I offered a recipe for a soup made with the flowers. My new recipe is for devilled eggs, with just enough of the flower to give them a little extra crunch and flavour. I kept the ingredients simple so as not to overwhelm the delicate flavour of the flowers.
Devilled Eggs with Milkweed Flowers
6 eggs, hardcooked
1 Tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp milkweed florets
salt and pepper to taste
sumac powder or paprika and a few florets for garnish
Peel and cut the eggs lengthwise. Scoop out the egg yolks into a bowl and mash them with the cheese, mustard, florets, salt and pepper. If you want them creamier, add more cheese or a little mayonnaise. Fill the egg whites with the mixture. Garnish with a few more florets and sprinkle with the sumac or paprika.