Along the Grapevine


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Milkweed Bud Fetuccine

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I usually try to make original recipes, but occasionally I come across something I haven’t thought of and want to try. Once I tried this recipe for fetuccine made with the leaves and buds of milkweed I decided to bring it to  Angie’s Fiesta Friday #23 and  share it with any of my readers who have milkweed. And if you don’t have milkweed, broccoli leaves and flowers could be used in their stead.

The Forager Chef creates some of the best and most innovative recipes using foraged ingredients I have found. The recipe in its original is here – and you might like to look through his blog to see some of his creations, especially those using a great selection of wild mushrooms.

Two things made me want to try this recipe. First, I have such an abundance of milkweed now as we have tried to encourage its growth for the sake of the monarchs, none of which has shown up yet.

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The other incentive was that I really like home-made pasta, especially when it is a recipe which is unusual enough that it is only available if you make it yourself.

I made only minor changes in the recipe. I used lime instead of lemon, and cheddar cheese instead of parmesan. The milkweed has a delicate floral flavour, and the lime zest is a perfect pairing for it. The pasta was easy to work with, but having added just a tad too much water I dusted it liberally with semolina when rolling it and once it was cut.

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I blanched the leaves and flowers together along with a few plantain flowers I was using for something else, and used the stock from cooking these  in the pasta and for the pasta sauce.

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Milkweed Flowers

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Devilled Eggs with Milkweed Flowers

  • Difficulty: easy
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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.

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Wild Grape Leaves on Punk Domestics


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Milkweed flower and lambs quarters soup

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Having just recently learned that all parts of the milkweed plant are edible at different times, I have been too late to experiment with the early spring sprouts. I did fry some young leaves in June and some fully-bloomed flowers a little later – both were good but just experiments without actual recipes.

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The flowers are beginning to wilt now, but there are still a few young plants, and the flowers before they bloom are supposedly tastier, so I came up with this very simple soup recipe.

Before going any further, I should mention that you need to make sure you can properly identify milkweed. If you have it in your garden, you probably know what to look for, but otherwise you should check with someone who does know, as there are other, not so edible plants which are similar.

Also, I am always careful to encourage milkweed as it is beneficial to monarch butterflies in particular, and many pollinators in general. I sometimes have to pull them out of my vegetable patch, and otherwise I allow myself only one or two blossoms a plant, so there is still plenty left for the butterflies. Not all the flowers turn into pods (I hope to have recipes for those soon), so the plant won’t miss a couple.Image

Other than those considerations, the soup is very easy to make, vegan (unless you choose to use milk in place of the nut milk) and contains almost all foraged plants, which means it is inexpensive and super good for you. If you are not sure about lambs quarters, refer to my previous post on these here.

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Milkweed flower and lambs quarters soup

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cup milkweed flowers (not yet open)

1 potato, chopped

1 cup cooked or tinned chick peas

1 Tbsp each oregano and parsley

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup water or vegetable stock

6 cups lambs quarters, leaves only (the stems by mid-summer are woody)

1 cup nut milk

Method:

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil on medium heat until the onion is soft, but not browned. Add the flowers, potato and chick peas and simmer for about 10 min, until the potato is soft. Add the herbs, salt, pepper and lambs quarters, and simmer until the greens are cooked (about 2 minutes), stirring to make sure they are cooked evenly. Add the milk (I used almond) and heat through. Blend it in a food processor or blender. Serve hot.