It is summer and the wild flowers are in full bloom! Among them, Common Milkweed is blooming in our area. These flowers are very lovely and their smell is incredible. Many people use them in crafts. They also make some good eating. Really!
When you come across Common Milkweed in bloom, there will be several flowers on the plant. Look for plants who have flowers in bloom, and unopened buds. Avoid plants with flowers that are already spent. These flowers can not be used.
Snip the stalk just below the lowest usable flower. Don't take it from all the plants. Leave plenty of them for the bees and monarchs! You will have young greens that can be prepared as in Common Milkweed: Food for Monarchs and Me. The older greens will be tough, so don't bother with the leaves below the flowers.
You will have unopened flowers that kind of resemble broccoli. These can be prepared in the same manner as the leaves, and taste similar to the the leaves. They remind me of green beans with an almost sweet flavor. The bud texture is very enjoyable.
Now on to the best part; the blooming flowers. These contain very little sap, so they don't need as much prep work as the greens and buds. I bring a pot of water to boil and place the flowers in for about three minutes, drain, and rinse. Then they are ready to use.
I've only used Milkweed flowers for fritters. They are so good. Prepare a fritter batter. I just use a thin pancake batter. I do not have a deep fryer, so I use a pan with several inches of oil. Heat the oil until water drops dance around. Dip your flower in the batter. Allow excess to drip off. Carefully place in the oil. Fry until it begins to float. I needed to flip mine because my oil was not deep enough. Fry until golden. Yummy! Not exactly the healthiest way to prepare wild food, but it is so good! A great special treat!
Common Milkweed Flowers are not the only wild flowers that can be prepared as fritters. We also prepare Daylily and Queen Anne's Lace in this manner. Make fritters with these as above. The Queen Anne's Lace needs no preparation, except washing. For the Daylily, simply wash and pull out the stamen.
Though we have used them for fritters, I prefer both of these flowers simply in salads. Wash the flowers. Cut up the Queen Anne's Lace and add to your salad. It has a mild carrot taste. For the Daylily, pull the petals off, and add to a salad. The flavor is very similar to lettuce. It adds a nice crunch and pretty color. Daylily is also good to hold fillings like chicken salad, or as Wild T made, Salmon Stuffed Daylilies.
When you pick Daylilies, cut off the whole flower stem. Use the open flowers as described above. The buds are wonderful sautéed in a little butter. They remind me of a sugar snap pea. Or you can put the stem in a vase of water and new buds will open everyday. I've read that the spent flowers are good in soups, for use as a thickening agent, and are a traditional ingredient in Chinese cooking. I have used them a little like this, but have yet to locate a recipe, just side notes about their use.
I enjoy using wild flowers in my meals. They add flavor, and make the meal visually pleasing too. Next time you are driving down a country road, or taking a walk in the woods, and spy some of these wild flowers, stop and pick a few. Take them home and try them for yourself. I think you'll be pleased.