Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Milkweed and Heat Wave



It's been hot here, and we've been super busy in Toronto, and trying to keep cool. Thanks go out to Deezwin Greens supporters who got in on the wine. We are now set up with a large number of empty carboys and are just about ready to start fermenting. One good thing about this hot, dry summer is that the grapes ought to be great this year.

We found ourselves without fresh vegetables in the house last week, and far too busy to run to the store. Milkweed to the rescue! After harvesting and washing the flowers, leaves and top 2 inches of the stems of about 2 dozen plants, we set to work on a stir fry.

Milkweed is a highly versatile vegetable. The flowers, especially, are a lovely addition to a stir fry and do not need to be pre-boiled like the rest of the plant. According to Brandeis University, pre-boiling the stems and leaves isn't particularly necessary unless you are one of the unlucky few who are sensitive to the mild toxin in the plant. We boiled it just to be sure.

Here's how we did it:

* Wash the plant bits (carefully ensuring there are no bugs living in the flowers) and separate the leaves, stems and flowers.

* Blanch the leaves and stems in boiling water for about a minute and drain, discarding the water. Repeat, boiling until tender.

* We had some leftover beet salad with caramelized onion which Deni had accidentally over seasoned with salt, pepper, celery salt, mustard seed, and turmeric. Using this as the base for the stir fry meant we didn't have to add any additional seasoning.

* We threw the stems (cut into 1 inch pieces) in first, frying until slightly tender, then threw in the leaves.

* Once the leaves and stems were good and tender, we added the flowers for a couple minutes and plated the whole thing.

The stems were a bit tough for our liking, but it's late in the season for them, so we weren't surprised. The leaves tasted like any bitter leafy vegetable (think collard greens or kale) but the flowers were the true star of the show.

We were hoping to make a milkweed pizza once the pods arrived, but the Crown arrived today and mowed the land we were harvesting from (pest control measures - many of the grasses growing there are considered invasive crops).

Today we will harvest the hay they left behind for our chickens and for making lye - which is on the agenda this week. Now we know what our harvest deadline is for next year.

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