Can You Eat Hostas? (Yes… and They’re Delicious!)

Can You Eat Hostas? (Yes… and They’re Delicious!)

Hostas are an incredibly popular perennial for landscape beds. Growing up in the Midwest with a background in landscape architecture, I saw them everywhere! These lush plants grow well in shade, feature attractive spikes of flowers, come in a wide variety of colors and variegated patterns, and are incredibly drought-tolerant, making them a staple for commercial, residential, and public plantings.

But did you know that hostas are edible? Until recently, I didn’t! As it turns out, hostas can be right at home in your vegetable garden as well as your landscape beds. If you like to forage, harvest locally, and shop produce that’s in season, you should consider adding hosta shoots to your spring recipes.

Which Parts of a Hosta Can You Eat?


Hostas belong to the Asparagaceae family. If that name looks familiar, that’s because it’s the asparagus family. Other relatives include yucca, bluebell, and agave.

The common name for the hosta is the Plantain Lily, which is native to Korea, China, and Japan. The entire hosta plant is edible. Even though eating hostas seems like a novelty, people have actually been eating this plant for hundreds of years.

Although the early spring shoots are the most popular part of the hosta to eat, here are the edible parts of a hosta that can be incorporated into your cooking:

  • Small, early shoots: The young, tightly coiled shoots are the most tender, similar to asparagus but with a milder flavor and less chewy texture. They can be eaten raw in salads or lightly sautéed with other vegetables.
  • Large, late-spring shoots: The larger shoots harvested right before the leaves open are a little tougher than the young shoots, but they’re still delicious. They can be boiled, sautéed, grilled, roasted, or baked as you would normally do with other green vegetables.
  • Hosta leaves: Older leaves taste more bitter than younger leaves, but hostas can serve as a substitute for any dish that calls for spinach, lettuce, or other leafy greens.
  • Buds and flowers: Hosta flowers are also edible, although they don’t have much flavor and are commonly used as a garnish.
Garden Tower Project

Are All Varieties of Hosta Edible?


Hostas have over 70 species and 3,000+ registered varieties. My second question (after researching which parts of the hosta plant were safe to eat) was whether certain varieties were inedible. I had many types of hostas around the yard, and I wasn’t sure if they were all safe to harvest. After all, fiddlehead ferns — another springtime delicacy — aren’t all edible, and some of them are toxic.

All hostas, including types that have variegated leaves, are safe to harvest, cook, and eat. However, you should always be mindful of potential contaminants such as pesticides. If you treat your landscape beds with chemicals, it’s not safe to eat your hostas.

When you harvest your hostas, make sure that you use disinfected garden shears or pruners. Alternatively, you can use scissors or a knife if you don’t have shears on hand, but make sure they’re clean and sharp. Dull blades will cause more damage to the leaves.

Dog watching hosta shoots being harvested to cook and eat

Are Hostas Safe for Cats and Dogs to Eat?


No! You should NOT share your favorite new hosta dishes with your furry companions! The entire plant, including the leaves, flowers, and roots, is toxic to cats and dogs. Hostas contain saponins, which are bitter-tasting phytochemicals that, if ingested, can lead to gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Pets don’t usually mess with hostas in the landscape beds, but if you’re cooking, be careful not to accidentally drop any morsels or feed them to fluffy little beggars watching with those big, adorable eyes.

Does Harvesting Hosta Shoots Damage the Plant?


The hosta will still leaf out even if you harvest all of the shoots. Hostas are extremely hardy and can grow back even if the deer munch them down to the ground. However, if aesthetics are a concern, then you should either plan to harvest early or choose plants that are tucked away at the back of a landscape bed where they aren’t as visible.

In my experience, harvesting the earliest shoots right at the beginning of spring doesn’t usually affect the new leaves. However, harvesting shoots in late spring when the leaves are closer to opening results in misshapen leaves as you can see in the photo.

The hosta is fine; it just looks like something nibbled on its leaves (in this case, it was you rather than a typical garden pest). This issue is purely an aesthetic one.

As the plant’s leaves start to open, I make sure that I’m careful to take no more than half of the shoots if I’m doing a late harvest. I want to make sure that the plant is healthy. After all, it needs its leaves more than I do! Be mindful of how much you take.

Health Benefits of Hostas


According to an analysis of essential macro and micro mineral content in twelve hosta taxa, published in Annals of Agricultural Sciences Volume 62, Issue 1: “Wild leafy vegetables contain higher macro and micro minerals than commercial vegetables… From the results of the current study we can conclude that hostas can be used as a regular dietary source of minerals. Among the studied species, H. alismifoliaH. sieboldiiH. nakaiana, H. longissima, H. montana can be considered excellent sources of some minerals and can be recommended for their K, Ca, Fe, P, Mg, Zn content.”

In layman’s terms, the twelve types of hostas the group tested had varying nutritional value to some degree, but hostas in general are considered to be a good source of potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. The taxa H. alismifolia had a higher potassium (4.05%) content than the other tested varieties.

Simply put: it’s a healthy green veggie to add to your diet!

Harvesting hosta shoots to eat

How to Cook Hostas: Simple Hosta Recipes to Try at Home


Hosta shoots make a great substitute for other green vegetables, so the shoots can be prepared just as you would asparagus, leeks, and zucchini. My personal favorite way to eat hostas is to sauté the shoots in butter and olive oil along with onions and mushrooms, then season the dish with salt and pepper. It’s a quick, simple, cheap meal that’s healthy and filling.

(This should go without saying, but make sure that you wash the hostas before you eat them!)

For the leaves, you can treat them just like you would other leafy green vegetables. If you need more inspiration, here are some ways to cook and eat hostas:

Raw

  • Add raw shoots, leaves, and/or flowers to your salad.
  • Eat hosta shoots raw with vegetable dip.
  • Use young hosta leaves as a substitute for bread, lettuce, or tortilla shells with sandwiches, tacos, wraps, etc. (Remember, old leaves will have a more bitter taste and tougher texture).
  • Wilt young hosta leaves on top of pasta dishes.

Roasted & Baked

  • Toss young, tightly coiled hosta shoots with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast them in the oven at 450°F for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Wrap hosta shoots in bacon, then roast in the oven at 400°F for about 10 minutes.
  • Bake a hosta shoot tart (here’s a recipe).
  • Arrange hosta shoots on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then add minced garlic, salt, and pepper before baking in the oven at 400°F for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan, sprinkle parmesan cheese across the shoots (you can also add panko bread crumbs if desired), and bake for another 2-3 minutes to finish your cheesy roasted hosta shoots.

Sautéed, Fried, & Grilled

  • Fry up a batch of hosta shoot tempura with flour, panko breading, and corn starch (here’s a recipe).
  • Pan-sear early shoots in a hot skillet with cooking oil, butter, 1/4 cup of dry white wine, and a dash of lemon juice to brown and caramelize the outside (bringing out more of the sweetness), then season to taste.
  • Marinate seared hosta shoots with soy sauce, hot chiles, garlic, and ginger (served warm or cold).
  • Sauté hostas with honey and soy sauce.
  • Coat hosta shoots with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then grill quickly over high heat and top with lemon juice if desired.

The possibilities are endless! What’s your favorite way to eat hostas? (If you’re like me, hosta shoots just might become your new favorite spring delicacy!)

Website | + posts

Award-winning fantasy author, freelance writer, spiritual explorer, and sole founder of Green Witch Lunar Witch. She created her first website in 2016 and published her first novel two years later. Sara spends most of her time writing, creating, and daydreaming.