Add hostas to the list of plants you may have your yard that serve double duty as both edible and ornamental. The entire plant can be eaten — from the young shoots that emerge from the ground in early spring to the flowers that bloom in mid-late summer — but it's most common to eat the shoots. The shoots can be sliced up and eaten raw in salads, or they can be cooked and prepared in a number of ways.

It's important to know the growing condition of the hostas before you harvest them. If they grow in your own yard and you don't use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers, you can be confident they're safe to eat as long as you wash them well after harvesting. However, if you're foraging them from somewhere else, you'll want to make sure they haven't been treated with anything you don't want to put in your body.

Harvesting hosta shoots

hosta shoots When hosta shoots are about this size, before the leaves have unfurled, you can harvest them for cooking. (Photo: pearlphoto/Shutterstock)

It may seem odd to eat these shoots, but in Japan it's a common practice. The plants, called Urui, grow wild in the woods, and they are common wild edibles that the Japanese eat, according to Practical Self Reliance. They're a member of a group of foods called Sansai, or wild mountain vegetables.

Harvest hosta shoots when they are young and tender. They should look like the photo above, when the leaves are still unfurled. The tighter the leaf, the more tender the shoot will be. As the leaves get larger and begin to unfurl, they are still edible, but they get tougher and more bitter.

Cut some shoots from the plant off at the base, but do not pull up the roots. If you still want the hosta to grow and bloom as an ornamental plant for the rest of the season, leave about half the shoots in the ground and you should still get a full plant that flowers mid-late summer. It may be beneficial to the flavor to harvest early in the morning, when they are cool and damp.

Recipes


The video above shows you how to harvest the shoots, blanche them, and then sauté them for a quick side dish. You can get a little more fancy with hosta shoots in the following recipes.

  • Bacon Wrapped Hosta Shoots: Similar to asparagus wrapped in bacon, raw hosta shoots are wrapped in bacon and cooked in the oven.
  • Roasted Hosta Shoots: It takes less than 10 minutes to roast hosta shoots in your oven with some oil, salt and pepper. You can sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on them when they're done to boost the flavor.
  • Eat Shoots and Leaves: A hosta salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing, nuts and goat cheese.
  • Tempura (Donburi) Hosta Shoots: In Japan, Donburi is tempura over rice. This recipe makes a tempura out of hosta shoots, puts it on top of a bed of rice, and adds some spicy radish for some kick.

One last thing. Hostas are perfect edible for humans, but the plants are toxic to dogs and cats. While most pets stay away from the plants, do not to let your furry friends eat anything you've prepared with the hosta shoots. (You know there's a good chance your dog will go after the bacon-wrapped shoots you leave him alone with them, right?)

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Young hosta shoots are edible. Who knew?
The early shoots of hosta plants are tender and delicious.