Solomon’s seal and hosta shoots are delicious late winter-early spring vegetables that can be grown in wooded landscapes and shade gardens. Enjoy these delectable shoots with a honey mustard pecan butter sauce for an unforgettable dining experience!
Years back at an early spring gathering of other rare food loving compatriots, our friends Eliza and Nathaniel showed up with Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum) shoots. The Tyrant and I had never had them before and we curiously took a taste of the raw shoots.
Raw Solomon’s seal shoots taste almost exactly like raw asparagus, only better — sweeter and more vibrant. We were instantly hooked.
(*Solomon’s seal is closely related to asparagus. If you want to get into a heated conversation with botanists and plant geneticists, ask whether Solomon’s seal is a Ruscaceae, Nolinoideae, or Asparagaceae.)
Being good friends, Eliza and Nathaniel soon gifted us Solomon’s seal rhizomes from their garden. There are dozens of species and hybrids of Solomon’s seal around the world and available from various plant nurseries. Our new garden companion was the beautiful green-white striped Variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum ‘Variegatum’).
Solomon’s seal and hostas: two vegetables that grow in shade
In our article Fruits, herbs, and vegetables that grow in shade, we detail dozens of edible plants that grow in part- to full-shade. Two of our favorites are the ephemeral shoots of Solomon’s seal and hostas (aka hostons), which emerge at the same time right at the start of spring in our Ag Zone 7b garden.
Even if you’ve never heard of Solomon’s seal, chances are you have hostas growing somewhere in your yard given how ubiquitous they are in American landscapes. Hostas are quite popular as veggies in Asia, but viewed purely as landscape plants here.
Within weeks of emergence, the tender shoots of both species will develop into an open-leafed form. The longer they go, the more fibrous they become. They also take on a more bitter flavor, which increases the further you munch your way up from the stem base to the leaf tips. Takeaway: get them young for best culinary potential.
While our edible hosta colonies maintain a relatively tight footprint year after year, our Solomon’s seals spread more quickly. Our Solomon’s seal colony has probably at least doubled in size over the past 5 years, and now covers a 20′ area under the canopy of giant oak and hickory trees. It’s a wonderful zero maintenance plant that’s survived without assistance through inclement conditions such as severe droughts.
Rather than harvesting all the shoots from either plant species, we’ll only harvest about 25% of the shoots. This is partly because the plants are gorgeous and partly because we want to make sure they have plenty of energy to stay healthy and continue expanding so we can harvest ever-greater volumes in future years.
Foraging Solomon’s seal
While hostas are native to Asia and aren’t found in the wild in North America, there are native Solomon’s seals to be found. For instance, here in South Carolina, Clemson University lists three native species:
- Small Solomon’s seal (P. biflorum var. biflorum)
- Large Solomon’s seal (P. biflorum var. commutatum)
- Downy Solomon’s seal (P. pubescens)
You can forage Solomon’s seal shoots in the wild, but be mindful not to harvest too many shoots or you risk killing the plant. Also, be sure never to eat any wild plant you’re not 100% certain you’ve ID’d or you could also end up in the ground (or a hospital).
If you go the foraging route, please also follow other foraging rules as outlined in our article Beginner’s guide to foraging: 12 rules to follow.
How to eat Solomon’s seals and hostas
You can eat Solomon’s seal and hosta shoots raw or cooked. Think of them as unique asparagus alternatives… Use a favorite asparagus recipe but substitute the shoots from either plant species.
Granted, Solomon’s seal shoots taste much more similar to asparagus than hostas (hostas are a bit more bland with slightly bitter notes), but this is the best way we can think of to frame these veggies for the uninitiated. Other parts of both plant species are also edible, but the culinary gold is the shoots.
Edible parts of Solomon’s seal:
- tender young shoots are the best edible part of the plant;
- small flowers are quite tasty.
- rhizomes are edible, but require quite a bit of preparation; harvesting the rhizomes also means fewer future shoots or potentially killing the plant if you harvest too aggressively, so we don’t bother;
- mature leaves are unpalatable and its berries are inedible.
Edible parts of a hosta plant:
- tender young shoots are the best edible part of a hosta plant;
- flower buds and flowers are also edible and quite good.
- The young leaves are ok, but can get fibrous and fairly bitter quickly.
Having only recently discovered pecan butter (where have you been all our lives?), The Tyrant just made a honey mustard pecan butter sauce that’s out of this world good on veggies, Solomon’s seals and hostas included. In fact, it’s hard not to eat the stuff by the spoonful, and we won’t judge you if you do.
If you’re looking for a go-to recipe to use any time you have Solomon’s seal and/or hosta shoots, asparagus, green beans, or other veggies, this is the one you need to bookmark!
Recipe: Solomon’s seal & hosta shoots with honey mustard pecan butter sauce
Solomon's seal & hosta shoots with honey mustard pecan butter sauce
A simple and delicious recipe featuring steamed Solomon's seal and hosta shoots topped with a honey mustard pecan butter sauce.
- 20 shoots of hosta and/or Solomon's seal
- 1/3 cup pecan butter
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1/2 tbsp honey (or to taste)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or to desired sauce consistency We've noticed that different brands of pecan butter have different consistencies/thickness. Thus slightly different amounts of olive oil may be required depending on the brand of pecan butter used. Add more or less olive oil depending on how thick you want your sauce. *There's also salt in pecan butter, but if you happen to find unsalted, you may need to add a pinch of salt to your taste.
Rinse Solomon's seal and hosta shoots to remove any dirt or debris. Place in steam basked over (NOT in) boiling water and steam until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Again, steam the veggies, don't boil them - or you'll turn them into mush. Steaming preserves the flavor and the beautiful color, texture, and shape of the shoots.
In small mixing bowl, mix together the ingredients for you honey mustard pecan butter sauce. You can either toss the steamed veggies in this sauce OR serve it on the side as a dip (which is what we did in the photos). Garnish plate with fresh seasonal flowers and serve!
Now you have two new perennial shade garden veggies you can enjoy in late winter or early spring depending on where you live. Enjoy!
Other articles you’ll love:
- Fruits, herbs, and vegetables that grow in shade
- 16 incredible edible wild flowers
- Why you should grow and use stinging nettle
- Tradescantia virginiana: a native edible plant common in home landscapes
- Plantain: a common edible weed that treats bee and other insect stings