Foraging for Dinner


Photos by Mark Bittman

These are unopened milkweed flowers; I began to eat them while first learning how to forage in central Vermont in the 70s. (How’d I learn? Euell Gibbons , of course.) The season is very short—just a couple of days for each plant, spread out over a period of maybe a week or two in any given location—so you have to be lucky to find them. Once the buds start to open up, they’re done. But when they’re tight and broccoli-like, as these are, they’re sweet, and cook instantly. I parboil them for a minute or two before incorporating them into other things. (Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to gather a big mess, and then I parboil them and toss them with vinaigrette or melted butter.)

Here, I made dirty rice, the Louisiana version of fried rice. I took leftover brown rice (I really love Kokuho, from Koda Farms) and tossed it with duck fat and chopped duck liver from my friends at Grass + Grit (more on those folks soon), fresh garlic and bonita beans, both hand-“imported” (by me) from California, scallions, kale, and turnip greens from Glynwood, and my milkweed buds (which, truth be told, did not steal the show, but neither did they disappear). Other seasonings were minimal (that brown thing at the bottom of the picture is a dried chipotle). Obviously, you’re not going to duplicate this recipe but the concept is easy enough. And if you’re fortunate to find milkweed…check it out.

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce, Slow Food


  1. C Hart said...

    Vermont may have plenty of milkweed, but many, most, other places in this country do not. You might want to consider sharing that info with your readers before they go out to collect it, particularly as you note the milkweed “did not steal the show” in your dish.

  2. Connie said...

    I am really surprised at this post, coming as it does from such an enlightened person. We don’t need to forage for our meals but butterflies do. Many of us are actually sowing milkweed in order to help the survival of the at-risk Monarch butterflies. This fascinating species needs milkweed to survive on its epic migration from Mexico to Canada. You (and we) have millions of other options at your fingertips for dinner. There is no need to eat milkweed! Please don’t eat the ONE plant the Monarchs need to survive!

  3. Marie said...

    I think your buds might have been a bit lost, mixed in – they shine on their own. You may be interested in the piece (link below) I just wrote about common milkweed and ways to use it

    It is impossible now to write about eating common milkweed without addressing the butterfly concern; monarchists are on the correct moral side but are sometimes not very well informed about milkweeds in general.

  4. Becky J. said...

    Agreeing with C Hart here. If you forage milkweed buds, make sure you leave *plenty* behind so they can propagate. Milkweed is a vitally important plant.

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