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Re: Subject: confused farming? (very late and slightly OT)

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  • Judy Phillips
    I have been offline the last few weeks with computers woes and have a lot of catching up to do. My but this group is getting active now that spring is strting
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 12, 2002
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      I have been offline the last few weeks with computers woes and have a lot of
      catching up to do. My but this group is getting active now that spring is
      strting to creep up on us! A few weeks back I started a dialog with poptones
      concerning taking advantage of the bounty of edible wild plants--an approch
      I consider even closer to the "do-nothing" approach to natural food
      production than seedballs! As often as not I will work my gardens around a
      healthy natural plantation of edible weeds, rather than destroying them to
      plant more conventional "produce"
      I'm including info below on milkweed--this is a posting from another e-group
      that I cherish: wildforager@yahoogroups.com. Anyone interested in learning
      more about edible wild plants would find this a great place to start--it is
      an extremely knowledgable and friendly group.
      It's good to be back--I'll plunge into more discussions as soon as I catch
      up with all the backlog of threads I've been missing!

      Judy Phillips

      P.S. regarding your question about the Roma seeds--I have only a few that I
      saved last year, though I expect a number wll come up volunteer in the
      gardens as well. If their excellent qualities hold true through this next
      generation, I'll be happy to share them with you for planting next season!

      > Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 09:13:20 -0000
      > From: "poptones" <poptones@...>
      > And uh... milkweed is edible? I thought it was poison? I', familiar
      > with collards and kale and dandelions, but I was always told milkweed
      > is poison. And thistle? Please do elaborate!

      Milkweed is easily identified. The syriaca is the commonest and most
      widespread of the Milkweeds. It is the one with the stout stalks,
      large leaves, rounded umbels of sweet scented, greenish purple flowers
      and a warty seed pod which splits down the side when mature releasing
      the light seeds, each with its streamer of silk which allows it to float
      on the wind to a new location. It is found from Nova Scotia to
      Saskatchewan and south to Georgia and Kansas.

      Its wide distribution , abundance and ease of procurement could make
      the milkweed an important wild vegetable if more people knew the
      secrets of processing its products into palatable food. Milkweed has
      not one, but four, very good vegetables, and has a possible fifth as
      The young shoots up to six inches high, make a very passable veget-
      able to serve like asparagus; The newly opened leaves can be served like
      spinach; the unopened flower buds are eaten like broccoli; the young
      pods can be cooked like okra. All of these are only good if properly
      The milkweed has a very bitter printciple that seems to permeate
      every part of the plant. Fortunately this excessively bitter taste is
      easily removed with boiling water.All four of the milkweed vegetables
      are prepared by very much the same process, so we only need to describe
      it once for all of them. The shoots.leaves, buds or pods are put in a
      pot, covered with BOILING water and placed over a high flame. When they
      have BOILED one minute, drain, and cover with fresh BOILIMG water and
      return to the heat. This process is repeated at least three times, then
      the vegetable is simmered for about 15 minutes to make it tender (except
      the buds which only require 5 minutes) and then seasoned to taste.
      WARNING: Do NOT cover with COLD water and bring to a boil as this will
      cause the bitter principle to become fixed in the cooked product.
      The young SHOOTS are only good in the spring when they are only 8
      inches high or less. Washed, bundled together with a string, like
      asparagus and given the BOILING water treatment, they can be served
      plain, with salt and butter or covered with a cream sauce and served
      with toast. While milkweed is easily identified, the young shoots have a
      look-alike in the young shoots of Dogbane(Apocynum androsaemifolium)
      both plants have a milky juice,the Dogbane leaves are slightly narrower
      and more pointed than milkweed and the dogbane stems are smaller in
      diameter and more fibrous than milkweed. When the two plants mature
      there is no similarity as bogbane branches and milkweed doesent and the
      dogbane pods are longer and much thinner than the milkweed pods.While
      not deadly poisonous the dogbane can cause severe illness. So be careful
      out there. BTW, I was fortunate in being able to find and photograph two
      young shoots of milkweed and dogbane growing side by side and am able to
      use the slide to make the point when lecturing on edible plants.
      The young LEAVES can be gathered over a slightly longer season than
      can the shoot. Take only the tender top leaves before the plants start
      forming flower buds.Milkweed leaves can be mixed with other greens if
      given the BOILING water process first.
      I prefer the BUDS to any other milkweed products. Gather the buds
      while they are still young and in tight clusters.They will appear dull
      and slightly wooly but as soon as they are covered with BOILING water
      they will become bright green and make an attractive vegetable to look
      at as well as taste. After the BOILING water treatment, simmer the buds
      for about five minutes, then season with salt and butter.
      The other milkweed product I like is the young PODS, but they must
      be gathered at the right stage. If the pod has become tough and elastic
      to pressure it is inedible. The hard young pods should be cooked a
      little bit longer than other milkweed products. When gathered at the
      right stage and cooked properly, the developing seeds and silk inside
      the pod cook up into a soft and delicate masswhich is delicious.
      You can freeze a supply of the buds and the pods for off season
      use, These are put through the usual three changes of BOILING water,
      then quickly and thoroughly cooled in cold water, drained, packed in
      plastic bags or other suitable containers and placed in the freezer.
      When used they are placed still frozen, in very little boiling water and
      cooked for 10 to 15 minutes, seasoned and served. Quite a few years
      ago(at my age I lose track of time) I was asked by the Churchville
      Nature Center to conduct a wild food buffet for their first nature
      exposition. Fortunately I had a good supply of frozen milkweed pods so
      that a lot of people were able to try one pod each.
      There are persistant rumors that the French in Canada made brown
      sugar from the copius nectar secreted by the blossoms of milkweed but
      the exact process seems to have been lost.

      This concludes the the material on the edibility of milkweed.Some
      of the material is from Euell Gibbons book "Stalking th Wild Asparagus"
      and some from my actual experience. I have eaten all the milkweed
      products except the brown sugar made from the flowers,
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