Hostas are edible and delicious. They might be in your garden, but they're also a traditional food in Japan. They taste like a spear of lettuce crossed with asparagus.
No, no, you can't eat my Hostas! Was the reaction I got asking my friends with gardens if I could eat them. I didn't understand. I'd never even noticed them before. Sure, they look ok after they grow and the leaves unfurl, but they're going to look great on a plate, too, and doesn't eating them sound fun?
After I found out you can eat them a few years ago, I was dead-set on getting some, and if I had to sneak up to a yard with a scissors at night, I was prepared do it, the foraging gods willed it.
Once things started thawing, around April and May in Minnesota, I asked around. Everyone seemed to have them, but only one person was nice enough to bring me some shoots, they varied in size, some large, some tiny.
I wasn't all that impressed with the size, but they tasted nice and mild, kind of like a tightly wound butterhead lettuce that you can cook as an asparagus-type vegetable. Anne, if you ever end up reading this, thank you, and I miss you.
Then, as dumb luck would have it, while I was going out the door one day I passed through the garden area in between the two apartment buildings I live in and noticed some different hosta shoots just emerging.
These were different, better: big and fat, looking like a vegetable. I resisted the temptation to pick from the apartment complex though, since I didn't know for sure if they had been sprayed or something to keep them looking as "natural" as they looked.
Emboldened, I called some more friends and asked if they knew anyone with some more shoots. After a little more pushing, (and 20 bucks) got me a nice bagful of fat, un-sprayed shoots to take home and eat.
Cultivation and consumption in Japan
Hosta's might seem like a novelty but, like a lot of the things I root around for, they've been enjoyed in the Far East for a long time. In Japan they're known as Urui, and are described as a type of Sansai: an umbrella term for wild plants that used to be harvested from the mountains.
The Sansei description is similar to how Northern Latin America (Mexico) uses the term Quelites to describe a number of different small wild plants. Greeks use the word horta as a similar catch-all term for many wild green things.
One big question I had was if you could possibly get a second growth if you mow the shoots down early.
It would be a lot easier for me to convince people to let me pick some of their hosta shoots of they know they won't have big bald spots in the middle of their landscaping. I also know some plants, like comfrey, can keep giving regularly throughout the growing season if trimmed regularly.
The overwhelming reaction to cutting shoots out of someone's yard was a strange look, followed by a firm "no", and, I get it: no one wants to have a spotty looking yard. I think there might be a happy middle ground though. I did see one page with some promising info, too.
According to Scottish Forest Garden.com, the first flush of leaf shoots can be cut down to encourage a second flush.
"It is possible to harvest the whole first flush of leaves of an established plant without killing it: ornamental hosta growers will sometimes ‘mow’ their plants to get a second flush of fresh, attractive leaves."
After watching the deer eat mine and seeing them come back, I can confirm that.
Just like any other young delicate green thing, these should be kept in the fridge, mine keep for one-two weeks in a plastic zipper bag with a few holes punched in it for air, along with a damp cloth or paper towel.
Lastly, the most important question. Yes they look cool, yes you can ingest them, but do they actually taste good? I say absolutely, positively yes, they were excellent, I prefer them to milkweed shoots.
All of the hosta species I tried (everything I've read says every species is edible) had a flavor like mild lettuces, the texture is where the money is though.
When the leaves are tightly coiled up they keep a little of their crunch, kind of like a spring onion but without any of the sharpness you would expect from an allium.
The method I liked the best was a quick-hot sear in a pan to brown them and caramelize the outside, which brings out a bit of sweetness. Cooked very fast, you can brown them, creating depth of flavor, as well as keeping the inside crisp: the best of both worlds.
I like a hot, fast sear with these. I did try other techniques like slow cooking, braising and roasting, but they came out a bit soft for me.
Like a lot of other things, when in doubt, research the culture that traditionally cooks whatever the ingredient in question is in this case, for me, it was Japan. A quick google for "Urui" should do you just fine, or try out the hot and fast pan sear I'm outlining below.
You can bet, when I get a garden (hopefully next year) I'll be growing a couple species as edible landscaping, until then I'll just have to keep begging my friends for their shoots.
Hosta flowers and mature leaves
Yep, you can eat those too, with some caveats.
As I watched the plants grow and mature through the Spring, I wondered if there would be any way to keep enjoying them as they matured, or without cutting the whole shoots.
The plants send up flower shoots after the leaves unfurl, they have a fantastic, sweet flavor, delicate, a bit like daylily flowers. They do have a bit of astringency to them, but you won't notice it much in a salad, just don't eat them by the handful.
The mature leaves I haven't tried yet, but a number of sources I saw online said you could cook them for a while until soft, and then use like a wilted green. I'm very skeptical of this method though since the leaves get super fibrous as they age. Once I try some, I'll share the results.
Have you cooked with hosta shoots or another part of the plant I missed? I'd love to hear about it.
Pan Seared Hosta Shoots with Ramp Butter
- Heavy saute pan or cast iron skillet
- 8 ounces fresh hosta shoots as young and tightly coiled as possible, cleaned, rinsed and dried if needed
- cooking oil, 1 tablespoon
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 3 Tbsp Ramp butter *see note
- ¼ cup dry white wine chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted
- Dash of fresh lemon juice for finishing
- Heat the oil in a saute pan or cast iron skillet until lightly smoking.
- Add the shoots and cook quickly, allowing them to brown lightly, keeping the heat at medium-high. Brown them on both sides.
- When the shoots are browned deglaze the pan with the wine, add the ramp butter and melt.
- Remove the pan from the heat and swirl it, turning the hostas over in the sauce that forms.
- Taste the sauce and season with a pinch of salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Add the dash of lemon juice.
- Transfer the hostas to a plate, mounding them up into a pyramid to hold heat if you can. Spoon the sauce over the mound of hosta shoots and serve.
Jay C. White Cloud
This one goes into the record on "yard edibles."
Glad you liked it. Thanks.
My husband and I are organic gardeners and can’t wait to make them this weekend! I’ll let you know!
Oh good for you, I'm jealous, I've been greedily spying the neighbors plot I got to pick from last year and they haven't even started yet, heck, she's been a little wishy washy with me too, I might not even get any. Someday I'll have a garden. Enjoy you guys, they're great.
Hosts shoots are delicious - too few people know about it!
I agree Beatrix, thanks for commenting.
Well you asked...the answer is yes! I've been a fan of hosta shoots for years. Haven't tried the fast and hot method, but I"ll give it a try as soon as the shoots are up.
Ellen: I was about to "shoot" you an emailing asking if they regrew!
Really enjoyed this post.If I can beat the deer and other critters that munch my hoxtas I have to try them. Thank you for sharing your photos and recipes.
Good luck, and thank you.
I am so excited to have come across this article. I have dozens of hostas in my flower beds as do most of my relatives. We keep taking them apart and giving them away we all have do many. The transplant so easily. I am so looking forward to spring so i can try these! Im 54 and Im both shocked that i have not heard about this before now or that they are edible! Thank you so much for sharing!!
Thanks Deborah. One of my favorite edimentals.
There's a freely downloadable September 2022 Scandinavian/USA crowd funded nutritional analysis of 14 cool climate perennial species including a hosta at:
Thanks Jon, someone else just passed this onto me and I love it.
I have a ton of Hosta at my farm. Never sprayed of course. I wasn’t aware they were edible. How cool!
Yeah they're great. You'll love stir fried with a little soy, etc.
I love them - a few years ago we lived at a house that had them everywhere..... I mean everywhere. I said to my wife I wish you could eat these dang things, which made me wonder if you actually could.
That led me down the rabbit hole of how they are cultivated and prepared in Japan regularly. Needless to say I look forward to them every spring now.
Yep, alot of people mention Japanese cultivation. We could grow so many more interesting things in this country if people know about them. I'm still working on the farmers in my area.
You can have all from one large plant right next to the front door. Andrea has some too.io
You're too nice, thanks Dotty.
When the snow melts I will cut shoots from one hosta of each type and see if they grow back. I will let you know. I have 25 or more of them.
Great. Thank you.
Yup, my wife is going to hate me.
Definitely not the first comment like that I've had. Just plant some extras and plan on eating them! Good luck, they're worth it.
great post, thank you....I can't wait to sink my teeth into them. Hostas will grow well in containers too, you don't have to wait on a yard.
Ah merci Edward. Andegar (cambrio) souffre un peu dans talath urui donc a suivre
This is a great landscaoe plant that can be eaten along with fiddleheads and ramps. We started eating them last year and were overly cautious when harvesting. All the cut buds grew back just fine, so this year we are harvesting like crazy. I just put a pint up to ferment. Salted them, added some sauerkraut juuce from some cabbage I fermented and will let you know how they turned out in a month or so. Plan to ferment some with ramps as well. Thanks for spreading the word.
Yum. I'm going to have to try fermenting them, keep me posted.
The fermentung worked like a charm. The first pint was a bit bland, because I wanted to find out what the basic taste was, but pints 2-4 I spiced up, added some carrots and peppers to one, ramps to the other two. The one with carrots was the best, nice crunch and flavor, one of the ramps was a little to rampy, the other was tasty. I have some pictures of our hostas that were cut three times, but I'm not sure how to upload. They look fine and healthy to me. Another plant I am fermenting is Live Forever. We eat it in salads, but it ferments pretty well. The texture is more like a cooked green when fermented, not crunchy lije the hosta.
Thanks Linda, that sounds really good. Yes, fermenting with ramps and garlic can get strong, especially if you're going the whole way to can a PH that's preservable. And live forever, I didn't know that one, and of course the first link online goes to a Minnesota page, I'm going to have to get some of that next year, sounds like another great edible landscaping plant.
For the fermenting, did you just add salt for a basic lactic acid ferment a la sauekraut? That's usually how I start out. Great to hear that the hostas kept their crunch, I had to toss some fiddlehead kosher pickles I was working on a few weeks ago: wayyyy too soft. Thanks again for sharing, I appreciate it.
https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/hylotelephium/telephium/ Good pictures of live forever/orpine, particularly the ones without flowers. They come up early and stay all summer.
For the hostas and the live forever, I use salt and also some juice(?) from my prior batch of fermenting. Fiddleheads are fiddly ;^) Our fiddlehead pickles turned out rubbery, so we chopped them up and put them in a sauce. You are welcome. I appreciate your sharing through your blog.
Omw, We have an acreage w tons AND milkweed & I've never eaten them. Guna now. 😊Thanks
Finally, a good use for hostas! I won't say I dislike them, but....I can't say I like them, either! If you were in Canada I would happily give you mine! I am clearing them out and replacing them with peonies. Ooh, peonies!
But you can't eat peonies 😉
My outdoor cat likes to chew and eat the slender flower stems in the middle. He never touches the leaves. I thought they were useless ornamentals and was going to did the hosta up when I moved into my new home. I left it for the cat. I will be trying the shoots now that I have read your article.
You'll love them.
I have been eating hostas every spring since I learned they are edible and I just love them. So much more tender than asparagus. I pan fry them in butter add salt and pepper and that’s all. They are the easiest and best spring veggie I’ve found.
I came across this post today and wanted to let you know that several years back I was amazed to find out that you could eat these babies and boy are they good!! I like to cook and brown them fast. Delicious! I should have known. Each year I fought the deer off of my brand new baby shoots. Now I know why. The fight continues but now, with a great deal more fervor!!
By the way - I love reading your site.
Thanks Nina, I love hostas!
I've amazed!! Thx U for sharing. I'm new to Hostas in Louisiana Zone 9
Hi! I discovered hosta shoots last year and like them a lot. It’s April now and they are starting to come out again so I am looking for more recipes. Last year I blanched them and served them cold in a salad with mangos, red onions and nuts, and it was delicious.
Great idea thanks. We did ramp butter sauteed hostons, fiddleheads, and Thomas Keller's 7 yolk pasta linguini tossed with a little grated parm and a drizzle of EVOO. A great lunch for a garden planting day when you forage your ingredients from your own property! The ramp butter takes it over the top. We sustainably harvest our hostas. Time to increase the size of our hosta bed (18 hostas and counting).
I see cooking the hosta shoots, but how about canning them like asparagus? I think they might be pickled just like asparagus with maybe a clove of garlic and a cayenne chili then used like pickled asparagus. Any thoughts?
Hi Michael. So, I can't stand jarred asparagus, but I know some people like it. Hostas will be fine like that, but personally I'd pickle them cold or lightly cooked, and keep them in the fridge so they don't get mushy.
Your link to Scottish Forest Garden is duff. I suspect it's now https://www.foodforest.garden
Thanks, I adjusted that. There's thousands of links here on this site and I keep track of them with software, but sometimes a few fall through the cracks.
I feel so lucky to have stumbled across this website! I love foraging, but have learned so much just in the last 30 minutes. Thank you! Thank you especially for noting that hosta flowers are edible (and hosta in general--might as well beat the deer to them). In general, I dislike the flowers and remove them as soon as they appear, both in my own garden and those of my clients (I am a landscape designer). I do use them as cut flowers (especially the fragrant ones)...but eating them! Even better!
Hi Carol, yes I love these and have to battle the deer for them too. An important thing to remember about hosta flowers is that they will taste much better dressed, raw they make my throat a little scratchy. That reaction is usually an individual sensitivity and vary from person to person-just something to keep in mind if you try one and don't like it right away.
Every time I have a question/wonderment on my foraging trails, I always look you up for my answers! I will actually google the plant name followed by forager chef just so i can get straight to what I want to know. I think we would be good friends in the real life! ;). We seem to gravitate to the same plants often, and have similar ideas of how to make them... only yours are probably way more cool! Thank you for publishing your recipes.... you're the best!
Hi, I'm glad to see the good word about eating hostas making the rounds. From the photos here, I think you are harvesting them sooner than needed, though it could be a texture preference. I harvest mine when they are a bit more sprouted, either just taller and still in the sprout shape, or even after they have begun to unfurl but still not totally opened up to the "mature" shape. We're talking just a few days difference. I like giving them a little more time since then there's more to eat! 🙂 I recommend removing the slightly darker outer layer at the bottom of the shoot, which is has bit of bitterness.
I describe them as tasting a lot like asparagus with a texture closer to spinach. The batch I cooked a couple days ago, I chopped them up and sautéed them in olive oil with lots of minced garlic and a healthy dose of salt. Delicious.
Hi Jonathan. There's a few reasons why I harvest them tightly coiled. First, it's when they're harvested in Japan, as the 3 people from Japan I cooked hostas for confirmed yesterday. Secondly, if I tell people to let them get bigger, we both know that hostas grow (and get tough) quickly. The more wiggle room I give people, the better chance of user-error, and then I get a bunch of emails complaining about how I instructed someone to eat a vegetable that's tough.