These plants are prepared as one might prepare asparagus. Gather the tips of the young, tender shoots, rub off any scale insects or hairs, and wash in cold water. Steaming is most desirable, as cooking in too much water will cause vitamin loss. Certain plants, such as Common Milkweed cannot be steamed though, because boiling in changes of water is necessary to rid the plant of toxins and a bitter flavor.

WARNING: Since only young shoots are used, one must be careful identifying these plants, as flowers may not be present to aid in identification, and some of them are easily confused with toxic plants, such as Dogsbane or Butterfly-Weed. Do not use any plant that you cannot identify with certainty.

Plants in this guide that can be prepared like asparagus

Asclepiadaceae - The Milkweed Family
Common Milkweed

Boil young shoots* for 15 minutes, changing the water several times, regularly for the first few minutes. This removes the light toxin in the milky juice of the plant. Be sure to use boiling water for each change, because cold water will fix the plant's bitter taste.

Phytolaccaceae - The Nightshade Family

Young shoots* can be boiled for 20-30 minutes in at least 2 changes of water.

Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.