Our top-3 favorite wild edible flowers of spring

Our top-3 favorite wild edible flowers of spring thumbnail
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Wild edible flowers abound throughout the warm months in most of North America. Here are three of our favorite wild edible flowers of spring that might grow wild where you live too!  

We love spring. Frankly, if you’re a human being who doesn’t love spring, we’re a little worried about you. It’s a great time to rediscover all the perennials you forgot you planted in years past while also watching your newly-planted annuals double in size each week.

Spring is also a great time of year for a huge variety of wild edible plants that are quite delicious: ramps, morel mushrooms, chickweed, fiddleheads, etc. Oh, and also flowers!

Yes, flowers aren’t just beautiful to look at and wonderful to smell. Many flower varieties also make colorful, nutritious gourmet food as well.

As with plants, each season of the year offers different varieties of edible flowers to enjoy.

Three common wild edible flowers 

Here are three of our favorite wild edible flowers of spring, all of which can be found in huge quantities throughout most of the United States:

1. Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) Flowers

Black locust flowers picked from our favorite spot.

Black locust flowers picked from our favorite spot.

One of the heaviest and hardest woods in North America, black locusts are actually in the pea/bean family (Fabaceae). Like other species in this family, they literally harvest their own nitrogen fertilizer from the atmosphere, and fix it in the soil with the assistance of Rhizobia bacteria in their root nodules.

Untreated black locust wood has many uses, and cut black locust fence posts can even survive in the ground for over 100 years.

In the early spring, black locust trees produce prolific clusters of beautiful white flowers that dangle down from their branches. Bees and other pollinators love them. So do we.

We have a few good spots where we can pick a five-gallon bucket full of black locust flowers in half an hour. When their nectaries are full, they’re high up the list of our favorite flowers (black locust flowers tastes like a sweet pea filled with honey). They can be eaten fresh or made into preserves, wine or other treats.

Some people also say the young pods and peas are edible too, but we’ve never eaten them and can’t vouch for their safety. Proceed with caution there!

2. Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) Flowers

Wisteria flowers beginning to open.

Wisteria flowers beginning to open.

There are somewhere around ten named varieties of wisteria growing in the US (some are even native), and each has a fascinating story to tell. If you’re interested, you can read more about them over on Eat the Weeds.

Like the black locust, Wisteria is also in the pea/bean family (Fabaceae). The blossoms of every variety of Wisteria growing in the US are edible, but the one we’re most familiar with is Wisteria sinensis, the elegant purple-blooming variety native to China.

Wisteria sinensis flower clusters almost look like giant strands of purple grapes, and they smell wonderful. We use them to make one of our favorite spring treats: Wisteria Flower Cordial.

A glass of sparkling wisteria flower cordial. Yes, it really is that pink! The fermentation process seems to pull these pigments out more than the cool blue tones.

Like black locust flowers, we pick copious amounts of edible wisteria flowers each spring. Unlike the black locust, it’s pretty universally considered a very, very bad idea to eat mature Wisteria pea pods or seeds, which can kill you.

Again, wisteria flowers are perfectly safe to eat and delicious, the other parts of the plant are not.

3. Red Bud (Cercis canadensis) Flowers

Cercis canadensis redbud mid profuse.jpg

By DcrjsrOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

Eastern redbuds are beautiful trees native to North America that produce small, edible pink-purple flowers that pack a ton of flavor.

Can you guess what plant family redbuds are in? Yep, like Black Locust and Wisteria, redbuds are part of the Fabaceae family. It appears we have a legume flower addiction.

Another interesting tidbits about the eastern redbud: native long-tongued bees love them, but short-tongued bees can’t reach their nectaries.

Redbud “peas” are also edible, although quite small – roughly the size of lentils. We’ve eaten them raw, but didn’t much care for them. Apparently, they’re much better roasted, which is how the Native Americans ate them.

The early growth sprigs on redbud stems are also used to spice meat, which is why you might have heard them referred to as “spicewood trees.”

Other Edible Wild Spring Flowers?

There are tons of varieties of wild, edible spring flowers, and we’ve only named three of our favorites here in the southeast US. What are your favorite wild edible flowers? Leave a comment to let us know!


Other edible flower articles you may enjoy:

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  • Reply
    Jenn Falcon
    May 1, 2022 at 8:45 am

    I am obsessed with black locust flowers. Just one problem. A lot of the flowers have these teeny tiny little green caterpillars/worms!!! When you wash the flowers they seem to really lose their flavor. Any suggestions how to get them out? When the flowers have little tiny circle holes they are more likely to be there, but not always. As a kid I didn’t know what these trees were called or that the flowers were edible. That was long before internet, so I gave them my own name: giant thorn trees. Anyway, is there a way to get the little green worms/caterpillars out besides pulling apart each flower?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 1, 2022 at 2:40 pm

      Interesting! We’ve never seen caterpillars in black locust flowers we’ve foraged, which means either: a) we don’t have that insect species in abundance here, or b) we’ve consumed them without noticing – ha. Removing the caterpillars without rinsing the flowers is going to be a challenge and might require some experimentation… I wonder if giving the flowers a vigorous shake atop a strainer with holes large enough for the caterpillars to fit through would do the trick? Otherwise, we’re not sure what you’d do that wouldn’t require water or diminish the quality of the flavor and texture. Sorry!

  • Reply
    May 30, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    Well, my crabapple blossom jam, my magnolia petal jam, and my redbud jam turned out really well, so I guess those are my favourites to make jam with. lol Making honeysuckle jam now, so we’ll see. I like to eat rose petals and primrose petals raw. Honeysuckle flowers can be nice raw as well. I also like those complimentary orchids that restaurants put on your plate. Just collected black locust flowers today and I plan to make jam with them tomorrow!

  • Reply
    April 23, 2016 at 1:35 am

    Some of the others I like are clover, honeysuckle, kudzu and mimosa.

    • Reply
      April 25, 2016 at 8:03 am

      Yes! Those are great too. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      January 8, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Sorry, Marilynn – our comment system was broken so my original response to you didn’t show up. Yes! Those are great too. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    May 20, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful article. I am absolutely in love with wisteria! I will have it on my permaculture farm along with the 2 others as well as many more. You asked what my favorite is!? I really enjoy moringa I eat the leaves raw almost daily, extremely delicious and nutritious. The flowers have a pleasant umph of a bite to them and the young tender pods are edible raw/stir fry πŸ™‚ so that’s what I have been growing and experimenting with lately! keep up the beautiful work! <3

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