Hostas: The Leafy Green You Didn’t Know You Could Eat

Before hostas made their way into our ornamental gardens, they were enjoyed by the Japanese as an edible.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: madaise/Flickr

You’d be hard-pressed to find a yard without hostas tucked away in some garden area. These leafy ground covers, which come in an array of sizes and colors, make a beautiful addition to any garden border or location where you want to keep weeds at bay. But this beautiful ornamental boasts a dirty (or lovely) little secret: It’s actually an edible.

Hostas originate in the mountain forests of Japan where they are known as Urui and part of a class of vegetables known as “mountain vegetables.” As part of the Asparagaceae family, the hosta’s best-known edible relative found in our spring gardens stateside is asparagus. It’s typically the young, tender shoots that are harvested, and they impart a mild, lettuce-like flavor. However, the flowers are also edible and can be compared to day lilies in their taste. Like with most tender herbs and greens, a morning harvest provides optimal flavor and durability. There are many types of hosta, and based on what I’ve researched, you can eat them all.

hosta hostas shoots
Cristina Sanvito/Flickr

To cook up hostas, take a cue from Japanese tradition and boil or fry the shoots—or simply eat them raw. The possibilities of using hostas in your cooking is limited only by your imagination, though. Incorporate them into your spring menu just as you might any other green. Add them to a quiche, sauté for a vegetable pasta dish, or use them in place of lettuce in your favorite lettuce wrap recipe. You can even pickle them. Here are some other recipes from around the web you might enjoy:

If you like the sight of hostas in your garden, do not fear. If you harvest the young shoots early enough, you’ll probably get a second flush that you can keep for ornamental purposes. If aesthetics aren’t as much of a concern, plant them in your perennial veggie patch and get double the food. Whichever way you go, it’s about time to stop thinking of your hostas as purely an ornamental and start eating.

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