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 varieties also make colorful, nutritious gourmet food as well.
Three Common Wild Edible Flowers
Here are three of our favorite common 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 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 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 our absolute favorite flower (it 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 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 sinsensis, the elegant purple-blooming variety native to China. They almost look like giant strands of grapes, and they smell wonderful.
Like black locust flowers, we pick copious amounts of them 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, the flowers are perfectly safe and delicious.
3. Red Bud (Cercis canadensis) Flowers
Eastern redbuds are beautiful trees native to North America that produce small, tasty pink-purple flowers. Can you guess what family they’re in? Yep, like Black Locust and Wisteria, redbuds are part of the Fabaceae family. It appears we have a pea flower addiction.
Some other interesting tidbits about the eastern redbud: native long-tongued bees love them, but short-tongued bees can’t reach their nectaries. The peas are also edible. 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. Their early growth twigs 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 personal favorites? Leave a comment to let us know!