Foraging Wild Flowers: Common Milkweed

Photo of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flower buds

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), a native perennial typically found growing in colonies, offers several different wild vegetables, depending on the season. In June and early July, the flower buds appear at or near the tops of plants, and these fuzzy green clusters can be gathered for food. I take no more than half the clusters per plant, making sure to leave plenty to flower and produce fruit. Foragers will notice that milky sap oozes from detached bud clusters.

Photo of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flowers and buds

I boil the buds for 5-10 minutes, drain, and enjoy. Acclaimed forager and author, Sam Thayer, says they can also be steamed whole or diced up and stir-fried. Open flowers can also be cooked and eaten, but I've not yet tried them. If you've sampled the buds or open flowers, I'd be curious to hear your experience.

Photo of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flowers

Note: While there are other Milkweed species (Asclepias genus) in New England, Common Milkweed (A. syriaca) is the only one I know to be edible.

5 thoughts on “Foraging Wild Flowers: Common Milkweed”

  1. I’ve tried the flower buds, raw, fried and made into a syrup and drizzled on ice cream. They are so sweet and delicious!

  2. Josh,
    I tried the buds a couple of days ago. I added boiling water to them and boiled for 1 minute. Drained and repeated process three times. Then ,finally, cooked in boiling water for another 5 – 10 minutes. This recipe came from Euell Gibbons book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”. I must say they were delicious! Left me feeling energetic and my skin felt great. Not sure why?

    1. I almost mentioned the issue of boiling in multiple changes of water as Gibbons and many other foraging authors advise, but opted not to. Here’s what I’ll say now, in response.

      In his book, The Forager’s Harvest (2006), Samuel Thayer debunks this milkweed myth in intricate detail. While Gibbons recommends careful treatment to eliminate harmful toxins and strong bitterness, Thayer simply cooks Common Milkweed buds as I mentioned in the post.

      Cooked, or not, Common Milkweed buds should not taste bitter. Bitterness is a clue that you may have made an identification error.

      So, while there is no harm in treating Common Milkweed buds with repeated boiling and water changing, it doesn’t appear necessary.

      I hope that helps, and thank you for sharing your experience, Deb.

  3. My favorite milkweed flower recipe is to dip a Cluster in very light fritter batter or tempura batter.

    The pods even when young should be double boiled. Bring water to a boil drain. Add them to a pot of water and boil again. I then treat them like asparagus

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