Milkweed is an herbaceous, tall perennial that got its name for its milky sap that contains latex, alkaloids and other compounds. Carl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist (1707-1778), named the genus after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing because of the many folk-medicinal uses for the milkweed plants. Milkweeds supply tough fibers for making cords and ropes, and for weaving a coarse cloth. It is important to be sure on identifying the milkweed because it has a poisonous look alike, dogbane.
Distinguishing Features: Milkweed is perhaps most well-known for its seeds; they are flat, 8 mm long, reddish-brown, and have a pappus of silky hair at one end. The seeds are borne in narrow teardrop pods that measure between 12 and 37 cm long. The leaves of this plant provide food for monarch butterfly larvae. Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars love milkweeds.
Flowers: in umbels are purplish-pink and occur at the tips of stems and axils of upper leaves.
Leaves: Milkweed leaves are opposite, large, ranging from 10 to 18 cm long, oval shaped, covered with fine soft hairs, and they are prominently veined.
Height: This plant can grow to be 1.5 metres tall.
Habitat: This edible plant grows in fields, along roadsides, and generally in dryer locations.
Edible parts: The flower heads can be fried in batter and eaten. Milkweed flower buds first appear in early summer and can be harvested for about seven weeks. They look like immature heads of broccoli but have roughly the same flavour as the shoots. These flower buds are wonderful in stir-fry, soup, rice casseroles, and many other dishes. Milkweed pods are delicious in stew or just served as a boiled vegetable, perhaps with cheese or mixed with other vegetables but be sure you eat only immature pods. Boiled young shoots, unopened flower buds, flowers, and young pods are said to taste as good as asparagus and other cooked greens. The only way to eat milkweed is as a young shoot (under 15 cm).
Other name: Silkweed.
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