Foraged Gardening

Yes, wisteria flowers are edible and they make delicious drinks

Yes, wisteria flowers are edible and they make delicious drinks thumbnail
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Wisteria flowers are edible and you can use them to make some seriously tasty fermented beverages!


We’ve previously mentioned wisteria flowers in our article Three of Our Favorite Wild Edible Flowers of Spring. Wisteria flowers are one of the earliest edible flowers out this time of year, along with violas, dandelions, and redbuds.

One thing that really stands out about wisteria is that it’s so dang abundant. If you find a spot where the flower clusters are relatively low to the ground, you can pick a bucket of wisteria flowers in a matter of minutes. And that’s just what The Tyrant and I did a couple of weeks ago.

Turning edible flowers into liquid heaven

We often enjoy having an aperitif or digestif consisting of a small glass of sparkling homemade cordial made from fermented fruit or flowers we grew or foraged. We also give bottles of our ferments away as gifts to friends and family.

A favorite that our parents look forward to receiving every summer is sparkling elderflower cordial made from the mounds of elderflowers we pick off our elderberry trees in late spring. (Yes, we still leave plenty of flowers for our plants to produce berries.)

Sparkling wisteria flower cordial

Sparkling wisteria flower cordial. It's interesting to note that the pigments that the fermentation process pulls out from the flowers are bright pink, not purple. Perhaps a chemist could explain this coloration?

A glass of sparkling wisteria flower cordial. It’s interesting to note that the pigments that the fermentation process pulls out from the flowers are bright pink, not purple. Perhaps if we were more knowledgable in chemistry we could explain this coloration difference…

Making sparkling flower cordials is a simple and perfectly safe process. It harnesses the power of native yeasts on the flowers and the beneficial bacteria cultivated during fermentation (similar to wine and beer making, but much easier). If you want to get good at fermenting, we highly recommend Sandor Katz’ book The Art of Fermentation.

For pretty much any nectar-rich edible flowers, you can use the basic recipe outlined in our how to make sparkling elderflower cordial article to create a delicious sparkling cordial. So far, we’ve used that recipe to make ferments with pansies, violas, dandelions, wisteria, redbuds, honeysuckle, and mimosa flowers.

Sparkling wisteria flower cordial ingredients (using natural yeasts): 

  • Wisteria Flowers
  • Sugar
  • Citric Acid or Lemon Juice
  • Water

Fermentation and flavoring notes:

As you’re fermenting, if you note that your flower concoction isn’t as sweet as you’d like, simply add a bit more sugar or honey. If it’s not tangy enough, simply add more lemon juice or citric acid.

Once you get the hang of the basics, you can also add ingredients like mint, hyssop, and other herbs to your ferments for more complexity and nuance.

Vigorously stir your fermented flower concoction twice a day for 2-3 weeks, and the end result is a naturally bubbly, deliciously unique creation that you’d never find at a store or restaurant. Like all ferments, it will also contain lots of beneficial microbes to help charge up your digestive system, e.g. it’s a probiotic!

Sparkling viola flower cordial fermenting on the left and sparkling wisteria flower cordial fermenting on the right. The colors of both beverages is almost identical.

Sparkling viola flower cordial fermenting (left) and sparkling wisteria flower cordial fermenting (right). The colors of both beverages is almost identical.

Tasting, sharing, straining, and bottling

With my mom currently in town for a visit, she noticed a large open glass container covered with a linen towel and full of a purple liquid with a mass of flowers floating on top. “What are you making?” she asked. “Sparkling wisteria cordial,” I replied. “Want to try it?”

Even though she is an amazing gardener and forager, she didn’t realize that wisteria flowers are edible. She was positively delighted by the news given the abundance of the flowers she has access to at her home.

She was even more delighted by the glass of wisteria flower cordial she got to sample, and will be taking a jar of the magical concoction home with her.

Once strained to remove flowers and other plant debris, we pour our ferments into Grolsch pop-top bottles and put them in the fridge, which arrests fermentation by slowing microbial activity.

One other thing we recommend if you make ferments: always use glass, not plastic containers during fermentation or storage. Given the microbial activity and acidity of the concoctions, you don’t want to risk the chemicals in plastic leaching into your ferments even if the containers are labelled “food safe.”

Bottles of finished sparkling wisteria flower cordial that we store in the fridge.

Bottles of finished sparkling wisteria flower cordial that we store in the fridge.

How do plain wisteria flowers taste by themselves?

Plain wisteria flowers taste like slightly sweet lettuce, with hints of bitter grape and peas (wisteria is in the legume family, after all). You can also eat wisteria flowers raw in a salad or use them as a colorful garnish.

How does sparkling wisteria flower cordial taste?

Sparkling wisteria flower cordial tastes dang near magical and way better than the flowers taste by themselves. The cordial tastes distinctly like the flowers smell, but amplified by several orders of magnitude and featuring a delightful effervescence from the fermentation process, hence the “sparkling” part of the name.

Warning: Wisteria flowers are edible, the rest of the plant is poisonous

A note of warning: even though wisteria flowers are edible, wisteria  pods and the rest of the plant are in fact poisonous.

This is a good reminder that you should always make sure you know with 100% certainty what a plant is, which parts are edible or inedible (and when they’re edible), BEFORE you eat them. There are plenty of wild plants and fungi that can kill you or make you wish you were dead, so practice responsible foraging by not taking unnecessary risks.

Over time, you’ll become a pro, and be able to look forward to the new wild and cultivated treats that each new season brings, such as edible wisteria flowers!

How to make Wisteria flower cordial - a delicious and naturally fermented drink! #fermented #cordial #wisteria #eattheweeds #tyrantfarms

We hope you enjoy a glass of sparkling wisteria flower cordial! Please raise a glass in honor of The Tyrant.

KIGI,

Aaron & Susan

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Talitha K.M
    July 19, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    is it possible you can make tea out of wisteria flowers?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 19, 2021 at 11:18 pm

      Sure, wisteria flowers would make a fine tea. Remove the flowers from the cup after they’ve steeped for a few minutes so they don’t impart a vegetal taste. Also, be certain only to use the flowers – that’s the only edible part of the plant.

  • Reply
    Jeanetta
    March 15, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    Is this an alcoholic beverage? Also, do I need to pull the flowers off of the stem, or can I put the whole branch in? Thank you!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 16, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      It’s very mildly alcoholic, like vinegar. We’ve never done an official reading on these types of ferments, but our guess is that it’s probably in the *1-2% ABV range. The longer you let it ferment, the higher the alcohol content but fermented flower cordials like this really don’t need to go for more than two weeks to reach peak flavor. After that, they can start to take on off flavors. (*For reference, non-alcoholic beers can have up to 0.5% ABV.)

      Also, you do want to remove the flowers from the stems on wisteria since other parts of the plant are poisonous.

  • Reply
    Rana Ganter
    October 4, 2020 at 7:28 am

    Wheres the method or recipe?

  • Reply
    vanessa driveness
    May 23, 2020 at 2:51 am

    The colour change is due to the lemon juice. You’re changing the pH balance. Similar to butterfly pea flower tea.

  • Reply
    Kay Allen
    April 16, 2020 at 1:30 am

    Since you can make a somewhat sweet drink/tea from the flowers do you think it would be possible to pour boiling water over the flowers and steep for several hours, draining out flowers and using tea to make jelly. I make red bud blooms, wild violet, hibiscus, forsythia and queen anne’s lace jelly in this manner. Would be good to utilize wisteria in the same way. Thanks

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 17, 2020 at 2:26 pm

      Yes, you can make wisteria jelly using the method you describe. We’ve never made it, but it should be delightful. Trick will be in knowing when you’ve removed an adequate amount of color and flavor and straining the flowers out BEFORE it potentially takes on a vegetal flavor. If you’ve got experience with this on other flowers, you probably won’t have trouble with wisteria. Best of luck and please check back to let us know what you think of your wisteria jelly.

  • Reply
    Brooke Golightly
    April 3, 2020 at 11:26 pm

    I’m confused as to timing. The elderflower piece says 5-7 days then refrigerate, this says 2-3 weeks. I think 2-3 weeks would surely result in mold at room temperature?

    • Reply
      Miko
      April 4, 2020 at 1:08 pm

      I made this and bottled/refrigerated it after 7 or 8 days. It was definitely fizzy and yeasty at that point. By itself, it’s too sweet for me, but with extra lemon juice and a splash of sparkling water (or vodka) it’s quite nice.

      • Reply
        Brooke Golightly
        April 4, 2020 at 1:37 pm

        Awesome, thank you! How could you tell it was fizzy and yeasty? Just curious because I bottled up the first batch last night and haven’t opened them back up yet.

        • Miko
          April 5, 2020 at 1:02 pm

          I could tell it was getting fizzy by about the 3rd of 4th day because it would foam up and make a carbonated sound when I stirred it. After bottling and refrigerating it, it continued to build up carbonation so it makes a slight champagne popping sound when I open the bottle. Note that it’s not going to be as fizzy as a commercial soda or anything. I left a bit out in a bottle overnight accidentally and a definite beer/yeast smell was detectable.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 5, 2020 at 1:53 pm

      Sorry for any confusion, Brooke. The fermentation duration isn’t the same on each flower recipe. Duration can depend on everything from room temperature, the specific species of native yeasts and bacteria living on the flowers (some are vigorous/robust than others), and your personal preferences.

      If you’re stirring the mix vigorously twice per day, you won’t get any mold. The worst case is you’ll start to get off flavors. Sometimes, a batch can go from absolutely perfect to funky in a matter of 24-48 hours, which is why we recommend tasting a teaspoon or so each time you stir. That way, you start to develop an intuition about each type of flower fermentation you’re making and arrest fermentation (via straining, bottling, and refrigeration) as soon as it’s within your ideal flavor and bubbly range.

      Hope that helps! Please let us know if you have any questions!

  • Reply
    didem anık
    May 3, 2019 at 7:45 am

    hi Aaron! I’ve tried making a wisteria cordial but on the third day I stopped stirring for two days and now I see small flies inside the jar, some are floating among wisteria flowers. do you think i should throw it and start over ? Or can i use it somehow?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 3, 2019 at 10:06 am

      Didem – Sounds like fruit flies. Did you have the mix securely covered with a breathable cloth or paper towel? If so, fruit flies should not have been able to get in. I’m hesitant to tell you to continue on if you stopped stirring your cordial for a couple days. The lack of aeration could have allowed for the proliferation of anaerobic pathogens.

      My advice: if you have access to more wisteria flowers, start over. Just add your current batch to the compost. There’s no food or drink that’s worth getting sick over. Also, be sure to securely cover the next batch with breathable fiber (towel, paper towels, etc) secured over the surface with a string or rubber band. Fruit flies should not be able to get in, but the wisteria cordial should still be able to breathe.

      Hope that helps!

      • Reply
        Nicole W.M.
        May 4, 2021 at 11:11 am

        I would like to make this cordial bit I want to be sure about toxicity… are the pedicels of the individual flowers safe? I don’t want to make a poisonous assumption that when instructed to remove the flowers from the stem, they only mean the main stem of the full cluster. That would be my thought, but if the pedicels (“stems” of the individual flowers) are also toxic, that seems important to note. Thanks for clarifying for me. I also have the native W. frutescens if that matters. But next spring would probably also be gathering blooms from one of the invasive Asian species growing elsewhere in our neighborhood but want to be sure about any toxicity differences among them. I can’t seem to find clear answers to these questions online so though I would simply ask for detail on your preparation process.

        • Aaron von Frank
          May 4, 2021 at 12:11 pm

          Hi Nicole! Sorry for our lack of clarity on this issue. When we’re processing our harvested wisteria flowers, we quickly run our hand down the primary stem of the flower cluster and pop off all the flowers within a few seconds in a single fluid motion. We leave the pedicels on. We’re hesitant to provide a guarantee that there are no toxins in this part of the flower since we’d have to have a chemistry lab in order to find the answer. However, what we can say is that we have done this process numerous times for numerous years with no ill effects. It’s also possible that if there are toxins present in wisteria pedicels, the fermentation process degrades them, making them inert and safe for human consumption. That’s one of the interesting functions of fermenting that we don’t often discuss publicly because of the potential risks, but in other cultures they actually ferment certain poisonous mushrooms, which then breaks down the toxic compounds making them safe for human consumption. The Nordic Food Lab / NOMA (which has better financial resources than we do – ha!) even found that fermenting unripe green elderberries (which are quite poisonous) makes them safe for human consumption. Go microbes! However, if you want to be extra cautious and allay any fears you have about consuming wisteria pedicels, you can remove them while processing. Hope this info helps!

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