You don’t often think of grandma’s hosta patch as the best place to harvest lunch, but hostas are edible (and delicious). Perhaps it’s time to open your eyes to all the wonderful edibles lurking in your very own yard!
Foraging doesn’t have to mean traveling to a wilderness area, sometimes “wild” edibles are right out your back door.
There are dozens of edibles lurking in the average suburban yard. Some of them are wild, like dandelions, and others are cultivated plants that happen to be tasty edibles.
Hostas happen to be both…they’re a plant that was once harvested as a tasty woodland edible, that became a cultivated plant in our backyards. Somewhere in the process, the edible part was lost in translation, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still delicious!
Long before hostas were planted in shady corners of suburban backyards, they were a wild plant in Japanese woodlands. In Japan, hostas are known as Urui, and they’re part of a class of vegetables known as “Sansai” or “mountain vegetables” which describe wild edibles that are commonly harvested and eaten.
Hostas are no different than any other wild-foraged spring edible, similar to fiddlehead ferns, wild ramps, or morels. Those wild edibles are starting to be cultivated for markets in the US, and you can in fact plant and grow ramps right in your backyard. Though they’re beautiful, we’re not likely to forget they’re also tasty in the process.
Somehow though, when hostas made the transition from wild woodland plant to backyard ornamental, people forgot about eating them. Perhaps because they crossed an ocean to get here, but whatever the reason, it doesn’t mean they’re any less tasty.
In our yard, hostas are essentially a wild edible. They live completely untended at the edge of our woods and under our fruit trees, thriving in shady woodland conditions that aren’t too different from their native land.
Just like any plant, the taste will vary a bit from variety to variety. The hostas in my yard taste a bit like a cross between a scallion and asparagus. There’s a slight hint of onion, but the overwhelming flavor is the green goodness of asparagus.
They have a pleasant crunch, a bit like the juicy green mouthfeel of iceberg lettuce, but with a lot more flavor. The best time to harvest hostas is when they’re young shoots just emerging from the earth in spring. I’ve heard the flowers are also delicious later on in the summer, and you can eat those without cutting into your actual plant, which may be a better choice if you’re actually harvesting grandma’s patch.
Use a sharp knife to slice hosta shoots off at ground level. The size of the shoots will vary from plant to plant. Obviously larger hosta varieties mean larger shoots, and these in my yard are a giant blue hosta variety that gets really tall by the late spring.
The shoots are likewise pretty large, meaning there’s more to eat. Since this one’s in desperate need of being thinned, it’s no big deal to harvest a few shoots.
Take off a handful or two from each plant and there will be more space for the remaining stalks to thrive.
Giant hosta varieties will be a bit taller and have a lot more girth. Mini hosta varieties may be much smaller.
Regardless of the variety, choose shoots that are tightly coiled and haven’t opened their leaves. Mine made it to about 6 inches high before they started unfurling their leaves.
The inside of a hosta shoot looks a lot like a leek, and mine had a bit of leek or scallion flavor. Give them a quick bite raw, and that’ll give you an idea of how your hosta variety will taste cooked. Since mine tasted like asparagus and scallions, I decided to give them a quick pan fry in a little butter.
I’m thinking they’d also be lovely in a spring vegetable tart, or a quiche.
The outside of the hosta shoot is caramelized like an onion, which shows you that they have a good bit of sweetness. The total cook time was only about 2 minutes in a hot pan, and if I had to do it again I’d give them even less time so they maintain more of a crunch.
The flavor was amazing, and though I do love asparagus, I’d have to give the win to hostas.
Beyond the shoots, which are a tasty spring vegetable, the blooms later in the summer are also edible. If you’re worried about harming your prize backyard hostas by harvesting the shoots, just be patient and wait until later in the summer when they bloom.
You can pluck off hosta blossoms without any cutting, which is a better option for young plants that are just getting established. Hosta blossoms taste sweet and floral, a bit like daylily blossoms (which are also a delicious perennial garden edible).
Hosta Nutrition Facts
So if hostas are edible, what nutrients are you getting when you eat them? For the most part, they’re green roughage like lettuce or asparagus with few calories. My Fitness Pal estimates that each leaf has about 2 calories, so they’re not exactly a survival food.
I did find one scientific study that analyzed the vitamin and mineral content of hostas as a vegetable. The study found that “The leaf K content of 12 hosta plant taxa ranged from 2.85 to 4.05%; the P content from 0.13 to 0.34%; Ca from 0.02 to 1.15%; Mg from 540.00 to 794.12 ppm; Mn 26.93 to 133.77 ppm; Zn 115.39 to 334.52 ppm; Cu 1.78 to 5.95 ppm and Fe 26.43 to 251.95 ppm.”
Where to Buy Hostas
While hostas are a pretty common backyard plant, especially in the Northeast, I’d never heard of them living out west. In New England, most local nurseries will carry them, but they’re often pricey at $15 to $20 for a small hosta in a nursery pot.
But where did the nursery buy that hosta in the first place? They bought them in bulk as bare roots for just a buck or two each. Pot them up and sell them for 10 to 20 times the price and it’s a pretty good rate of return. If you’re looking to plant hostas, buying your own bare roots will save you a bundle.
Generally, bare-root hostas sell for $4 to $8 each online. You can find them on Amazon, but honestly, they can be a bit questionable when it comes to ordering plants. It really depends on the supplier, and sometimes you get luck, sometimes you don’t.
If you want a dependable supplier for hosta plants that consistently delivers quality, I’d suggest ordering from Eden Brothers Nursery. Their price ranges from $4 to $6 a plant, and you can choose spring shipped or fall shipped. I’m particularly fond of giant hostas, especially when it comes to using them as a vegetable. They grow faster and yield better than some of the cute little mini varieties (and they taste spectacular).
Eden Brothers is also a great source for peony roots…and you know that peonies are edible too, right?
How to Grow Hostas
Once you have hosta bare roots or some successful hosta seed starts, how do you tend them?
In their native Japan, China, and Korea hostas grow in woodlands and along stream banks. It makes sense that they’d grow best in conditions that mimic their natural environment.
That means shade and moist, rich soil with a lot of organic matter. Direct sun can harm hostas, causing the leaves to burn and bleach white.
Plant hostas in part to full shade, ensuring that they’re in shade during the heat of the day. They’re a perennial plant, so they’ll come back year after year in the same spot assuming they’re well-tended.
Protect them from deer and rabbits, which love the tender succulent leaves. Slugs can also be a problem.
In general, hostas are hardy from zone 3 to 8, but this can vary a bit by variety.
There are a lot of different hosta cultivars, each with different flowers, leaf color, and size. The most common flower colors are purple and white.
Mini hostas stay tiny, somewhere between 6 and 12 inches tall. Giant varieties can grow to 3 feet tall with huge leaves that cover a lot of ground. We have a lot of sprawling woodland space on our homestead, so we grow mostly giant hostas.
Choose varieties that best suit your planting location, saving smaller varieties for near narrow walkways and inter-planting with other shade perennials. Be aware that hostas with green leaves (as opposed to variegated or striped varieties) are generally more dependable in the garden.
I prepared my hosta shoots rather simply, but if you’re looking for more creative inspiration, try any of these hosta recipes:
- Bacon Wrapped Hosta Shoots
- Hosta Shoots Salad with A Balsamic Reduction
- Pan Seared Hosta Shoots with Ramp Butter
- Hostas with Garlic Mustard Pesto
- Midwestern Vignarola – With Hosta Shoots & Wild Spring Edibles
Wild Foraged Recipes
Looking for more fun backyard garden edibles? Check these out…
- How to Cook a Rose (and other ways to use them)
- How to Make Rose Cordial
- How to Eat a Pine Tree (Every part is edible)
- How to Eat Linden Trees (Every part is edible)
- 16 Medicinal Trees for Your Herbal Medicine Chest
This is a totally new idea for me! But my hostas are already up and very huge so I’ll wait to wait till next spring to try this. Thanks!
I was just looking at my hostas this morning, wondering if they are edible…lol! Thanks for sharing!
This is fascinating! I had no idea!
Yes! You have given me the confidence to give this a try for dinner tonight. Are all hosta varieties edible?
Diana M McCleery
Yes they are all edible. The flavor varies a bit, and of course the shoots are different sizes which affects cooking. All I have tried are tasty but I prefer my big juicy ones.
Mine have already bloomed. I never knew you could eat hosta shoots. I’m going to have to try that next year. We have so many!
Hayley | The Simple Supper
My hostas are already full on bloomed, but I will definitely keep this in mind for next year. I would have never thought to try and eat them!
You can also eat the blooms. She said so in her presentation.
RE-read the information. 😁
I stay away from Hostas before because I,m more of an edible gardener. Thank you for the new idea, now hosted has a place in my garden.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined eating a hosta! You have definitely got my curiosity up. Thanks!
Well, no wonder my chickens ate them all! I will have to see if I can beat them to it next spring!
Totaly interesting. I wonder which Daylily species is this.
Hostas and daylilies are a bit different. They’re in the same plant family, but hostas are in the genus “Hosta” and daylilies are “Hemerocallis.”
You mention eating day lily blossoms (💘) is it also possible to eat day lily shoots?
Thanks soooo much for the recipe.
Yes indeed! There’s a great article on how to prepare different parts of daylily here.
Do try a small sample first. There is a mildly toxic variety that looks identicl in every way, & causes gastric distress. So, whenever you gather them from a new patch, test first, & especially before giving them to children & the elderly.
Interesting! I had decided on planting hostas in an area that was shady because nothing edible would grow there. I was wrong about that!
where can I buy 2 plant
Good question! They’re available bare root here for a few dollars per plant.
Thank you! I am wile about “wild” and ornamental edibles!
If the shoots are edible, are the fully formed leaves edible as well? Maybe cooked like collards or mustard, turnip greens?
Yes indeed, the older leaves are still edible, they just get tough and stringy as the season goes on. You can eat them, they just don’t taste as good. But then again, if I think of them as a completely different vegetable it might help the mindset. Collards and asparagus are very different vegetables, and the leaves are different from the shoots in a similar way to the differences between those two vegetables.
They grow all over the place around where I live. I live in the Pacific Northwest! Never thought of eating them though!
Thanks so much, for such an educational and eye opening article about Hostas! And especially for the ‘Above & Beyond ‘ move by providing a link for ordering them. You’re awesome.💞 Take care and enjoy the day,
But what about the slugs?
It’s kind of amazing, everyone says slugs are a huge issue with hostas, and we have plenty of slugs, but they always seem to be busier elsewhere. They never really go for our hostas. Same with the deer, they’re in our yard daily but haven’t eaten our hostas yet…too much other good stuff to eat.
This is great info! I was directed to this from our group. https://mewe.com/join/livingoffgrid
No Idea Until Now That Hostas Are Edibles . I Came From The Philippines And Use Elephant Ears Or Taro As Vegetables Cooked With Coconut Milk And Ginger Root And Lemon Grass . I’m A Green Thumb And Grow Hardy Perrenial Plants Annuals Fruit Vine Trees ETC. Love To Know Something New Everyday .
The fact that rabbits like them is unfortunate. I was going to try growing them, but I have little appetite to definitely lose anti-rabbit war.
I’m growing Allium Tricoccum which rabbits don’t eat.
How much research (casual or more scientific) has been done on the edibility of cultivated hostas? I ask because while the original daylily and SOME of its cultivars are edible, some cultivars of daylily are not… specifically the laxative quality (which IS present in the original, don’t eat too many) can get magnified in cultivars to the point that while they don’t kill you, you and your bathroom will share a great relationship for a while! LOL
I don’t know if there are similar issues with hostas, but I would rather find out from someone with experience than explore the results myself!
I haven’t heard anything about adverse effects with hostas, but that said, I did a bit of research for you. I found one study that did a review of known research into active plant compounds within hostas. It makes no mention at all of any toxic compounds what so ever, so magnification in domestic varieties is less a concern to me. The thing that struck me though, is that the study discussed the potential for hosta based medicines for a variety of diseases.
The study noted, “The whole plant and the compounds isolated from Hosta genus showed the broad pharmacological actions such as anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antiacetylcholinesterase, anti-viral, antifungal, and insecticidal activity, with a wide application prospect.”
The study concludes with this note, saying that research into the chemical constituents of hostas is only just beginning, but very promising:
“Most of researches focused on the ornamental values of genus Hosta, meanwhile its medicinal value is open to people gradually. The past investigations have revealed many active components in genus Hosta, especially the steroids and Amaryllidaceae alkaloids with the broad
prospects to develop potential new drugs such as anti-inflammatory and anti- Alzheimer’s dementia agents. The high content steroid sapogenins in Hosta can be utilized to synthesize many steroid hormone drugs also. Much more attention should be focused on the exploitation and utilization of medical plants from genus Hosta. Our comprehensive literature search also indicates that only a very few of Hosta species have been undergone the chemical and pharmacological investigation so far. So the research of the other species of genus Hosta should be carried out.”
Again, no mention of potential toxicity. That’s not to say that it’s not possible, only that it wasn’t a concern for these researchers. I’m excited now, and I think I’m going to do a bit more research and write an article about the potential for using hostas medicinally….
For the article I reference above, here’s the citation and where to find a full text pdf:
Rui Li, Meng-Yue Wang and Xiao-Bo Li. (2012) Chemical constituents and biological activities of genus Hosta (Liliaceae). Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, Vol. 6(14), pp. 2704-2713.
Full text pdf: https://academicjournals.org/journal/JMPR/article-full-text-pdf/9EE579527070
My daughter and I have hosta all over our yards and never knew you could eat the plants. I also have fiddle head ferns that I cook. Delicious!!! Thank you so much for the tip.
So how would you cook the blooms?
The blooms can be eaten fresh or in salads, or you can make hosta flower fritters.
Now that hostas are edible what is the food nutrition in them?
Good question. I found one source that claimed that each leaf has about 2 calories. Another source studied the vitamin and mineral content of hostas as a vegetable and found “The leaf K content of 12 hosta plant taxa ranged from 2.85 to 4.05%; the P content from 0.13 to 0.34%; Ca from 0.02 to 1.15%; Mg from 540.00 to 794.12 ppm; Mn 26.93 to 133.77 ppm; Zn 115.39 to 334.52 ppm; Cu 1.78 to 5.95 ppm and Fe 26.43 to 251.95 ppm.”
If you are iff grid how do you post a blog?
Ha…I get asked that a lot. Off-grid doesn’t mean have no teeth or play the banjo all day on my porch, though I do really like bluegrass and I probably should see my dentist more regularly. All off-grid means is that we generate our own power. I actually wrote an article about how living off grid we have more luxuries than I did living in a suburban house (including air conditioning and a whirlpool tub). If you set it up right, you can live a pretty nice life back in the woods. Here’s a little lite reading about how we live:
– 10 Surprising Luxuries We Have Off Grid
– Living Off Grid is More Affordable Than You Think
But beyond that, even if we had no internet or electricity, I could still walk to any public library and publish a blog…
I am so excited to try this! I was considering replacing the hostas in my garden with something edible — now I don’t have to!
Great article! Covered most of my questions!
Thanks for this. I had heard 15 or more years ago that the Chinese used the leaves of two species of hosta for wraps – for something like egg rolls or dumplings, I guess. So I wrote and called a few horticulturalists and they all said either that they did not know or thought not. As I was not sure about the species, I never tried it but kept asking about it off an on since then. So I am very happy to read your article and can’t wait to try it. What I was interested in back then was eating the early leaves as lettuce as they were so plentiful so early in the spring, and the lettuce took ages to grow!
Any precautions on cultivars? Guessing most people dont have the native variety?
I have found multiple studies talking about either the nutritional contents of hostas or their medicinal potential and not one of them mentioned toxic cultivars. That’s not to say it’s not possible, it’s just not something that’s discussed in the scientific literature at this point…so I personally am not worried about it.
As always with a new plant though, eat a small quantity to see how your body takes to it. I know people that are allergic to lettuce, so anything’s possible…
I’m still trying to find out if the plant will continue to grow once the shpots are harvested? Do I need to only use a few of the shoots? I ate some last week, with just butter, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice and they were wonderful! I even ate the young leaves, and they were really good too!
Yes, the plants will continue to grow so long as you don’t harvest too many shoots. How many is too many I don’t know for certain, but maybe stick with less than 10% to be safe?
I had no idea you could eat hostas. I might have to track down some edible hostas and add them to my garden. I’ve been wanting to try and add different edible plants to my garden, so this could be a fun experiment.
Was also wondering if there were any varieties which would be unsafe to eat.
And any suggestions on best largest varieties to purchase for this purpose.
To the best of my knowledge, there are no varieties that are unsafe to eat. There’s always a chance for strange mutations in anything, but I think it’s unlikely. Fedco Trees sells a giant hosta sampler pack of plants for spring shipment, and they’re supposed to get to 30inches tall and 80 inches wide at maturity. That’s a good place to start if you’re looking for big ones!
At least here in Central California, Costco sells bags of about a dozenish(?) Hosta bare roots for under $20. I think they’re in stock late winter to early spring. They grew well in my coastal garden till I went on vacation and forgot to have someone water them. Definitely not drought-tolerant.
Would have loved to try, but have sprayed because the deer are horrible in our subdivision. Next year for sure. Loving the informative!
How cool! We have hostas at our nursery and did not know you could eat them!!!
I would imagine the older leaves would be good chopped into a stir fry with lots of other goodies from the garden, plus bean sprouts etc.
I just can’t believe it! Not to many years ago I told my wife that it is too bad we can’t eat hostas! They grow like holy crazy in our back yard. Now, I find out after growing them and digging them up and giving them away, that they are edible!
I think it would be prudent that if you only harvested half the shoots, you’d still have plenty of healthy leaves later on.
This is a very well written and informative article. Thank you so much for all of the information. I will definitely try this this spring. Thank you.
In our area you can purchase partial plants or get them free when people thin out their hostas. I have thinned mine out and sold them. Now I’m gonna eat them instead. They grow like crazy here.
Before buying these plants at a nursery, I would make sure they have not been treated with pesticides like neonicotinoids, a common practice at wholesale nurseries. These pesticides are taken up by the plant and become a part of it. Not only are these chemicals dangerous for human health, they are deadly to pollinators.
I live in Southern California and I’ve grown hostas for years. They go dormant in the winter and the first sign of spring is their little heads peeping out of the ground. I had no idea you could eat them although I don’t think I would. I love how they look too much.
Another way to get hostas for your own garden, is put the word out you would like some. Around here, in ,Ohio, there is always somebody who is thinning out their hosta beds and are always happy to give the extra away to someone who wants them. This helps both people and it just costs your time.
I can’t wait to try this next year. I love asparagus so if it’s anything like that I’m sure they’ll be great!
Deer munched ours totally down one year. I guess they knew what they were doing! Now they are going to have competition LOL
I can hardly wait to try my hostas for dinner tonight. Gotta say, though, they do grow out west quite well. I live near Seattle and have several varieties that thrive in my garden
Hello. Do you knowwhat plants are good for cooked and which are good for raw greens throughout the summer? Most greens that can be used in salads seem to be early spring only. I live in zone 4 if that helps. Tysm.
We use them throughout the summer as a cooked green. The leaves get tougher as the season goes on, but we cook them like kale/collards (we’re also zone 4).
For those folks who would like a few hosta plants – check with family members and neighbors. Hostas are very easy to transplant and start new plants. Other than a shady place, they aren’t too fussy about soil requirements – at least my hosta plant isn’t, it just grows and grows. ext spring I will thin it out by cutting out some shoots and have them for dinner.
Thanks for the tips!
You mentioned ramps. Very hard to find and very expensive. But delicious!
I love how your posts are not only practical but so informative! I cannot believe we’ve had hostas for the last 15 years & I just now learned I could eat them. Better late than never? Ours are still just popping up so I cut a handful & cooked them in coconut oil & OH MY GOODNESS… where have these been all my life?! (Right outside the front windows LOL) They’re incredible! Thank you so much for sharing!
Lol. That’s so funny. We learn something new every day don’t we? I am so glad you are enjoying your hostas. You’re welcome!
Absolutely! Those rare days when I’m not learning anything new are so boring.
Thoroughly enjoying your blog, thank you! 🙂
Enjoyed your article on Hostas and the joy of eating them. I’ve got various varieties in my front and back gardens. I’ve eyed the shoots every spring, wondering whether they were edible. Now that I know they are, I’ll happily add them to our Chinese and Japanese meals, and fry them in butter just because. My darling Chinese mother-in-law, who is much missed, even after 21 years, would always ask “Can you eat it?” whenever I added a plant to our garden, or we were out and about and came across an interesting plant. If I’d known, we could have cooked the hostas together. I’ll share this news with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and daughter and son too. Thanks so much! I’m glad I’ve subscribed to your blog, it’s brilliant!
Thank you for sharing that wonderful story about your mother-in-law. We’re so glad that you are enjoying the blog.
Bobbi Jo Kellogg
Just wondering, I am new here, and fascinated by all of your information! My hubby freaked out this morning when I showed him what I am 98% sure are hostas growing in our front flower beds, and I told him they were edible. He reminded me of the man in Alaska that died in his ‘Magic Bus’ by eating the wrong flower. They made a movie about him. Anyhow, he’s scared for me to try them. Is there some way to be absolutely certain that I am right about this plant before I eat it? I am wanting to try several plants and the medicinal things you post about, but I don’t want to kill myself! Lololol 😂 Thank you 😊 everyone for the information.
The best way to learn identification is from a local person that can come and look at the plant and verify it for you. I also like to look at least 3 reputable resources for identification before eating something. The other tip is to just eat a tiny amount the first time once you have confirmed the identification.
After you check all your references and consult with locals you could try this approach. Nicole Appelian PHD suggested a multii-step approach to safely try a new plant. She said to put the plant in the bend of your elbow for 10 minutes to see if you have a reaction to it. If there is no reaction then hold it to your lip for 10 minutes and see if there is any reaction. Next put it in your mouth, but don’t chew it and wait to see if there is a reaction. Then chew it but don’t swallow it for 10 minutes. Finally swallow it. If you feel any sort of nausea then induce vomiting and drink lots of water. I thought it sounded like a pretty safe approach to exploring unknown plants.
That’s very interesting. Thank you for sharing.