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.
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
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
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.
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
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!