You Can (& Should) Eat Those Hostas In Your Garden

Hostas are plenty common in ornamental gardens, but did you know you can eat them, too? Both the shoots and leaves are edible and delicious.

by Frank Hyman
PHOTO: Shirley F. Arnold/Shutterstock

Hostas are a favorite perennial plant for many gardeners because they thrive in shade. They also have many varieties of colorful, big, pleated leaves to choose from:

  • green
  • yellow
  • blue
  • variegated leaves with yellow or white stripes

Blue hostas stand up to drought better, and deer like to eat them less because the blue color comes from a thin coating of wax. At the height of summer, hostas (Hosta sp.) are crowned with white or violet flowers, some of which are fragrant and all of which are edible. 

Why Do Deer Like Hostas? (And Would I, Too?)

Deer inspired my first taste of hosta. I heard so many complaints from gardeners about deer eating their hostas that I wondered what the attraction was. So, when no one was watching, I took a bite of a mature leaf. 

After expecting some amazing deer-friendly flavor, I was a bit disappointed that it tasted not unlike spinach. I took two lessons from this experiment.

First, deer like mild flavors. (They avoid culinary herbs.) Second, people might enjoy eating hostas.

Read more: Ready to ditch the grass and garden your front yard?

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Eat Your Hostas!

From Ellen Zachos, forager and writer of Backyard Foraging, I learned that farmers in Korea grow Hosta montana (a common plant in American gardens). The young leaves are an edible crop, like spinach or collards. 

In mid-spring, harvest the hosta shoots before the leaves unfurl. Snip off these tight rolls of young leaves just above the soil line. The shoots will look like a chiffonade of greens.

Chop them, stir-fry and serve as a side dish or over pasta or rice. Or get primitive. Slather the shoots with oil, salt and pepper. Then roll them around on the grill until they are slightly charred.

We all need a little more carbon in our diets, right?

You can also eat the mature leaves of hostas. They just need to be boiled for 15 to 20 minutes first. Japanese farmers also enhance the edibility of their plants by covering the new shoots to blanch them (lack of light makes the leaves white) and make them even more tender. 

If deer cause problems, harvest about a third of the shoots from each plant for yourself then spray with a deer repellent from an organic company called I Must Garden to keep the deer at bay.

In winter, dig, divide and replant your biggest hostas so there will be enough for everyone to eat. 

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