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.
Why? Most nights, we 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 bushes in late spring. (Yes, we still leave plenty of flowers for our plants to produce berries.)
Sparkling Wisteria Flower Cordial
Making sparkling flower cordials is a simple and perfectly safe process that 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.
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’ll 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!
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.”
How do plain wisteria flowers taste by themselves? Lettucy (is that a word?), slightly sweet with hints of bitter grape and peas (wisteria is in the legume family, after all). You can also eat them raw in a salad or use them as a colorful garnish.
How does sparkling wisteria flower cordial taste? Dang near magical and way better than the flowers by themselves. It 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 Not
A note of warning: even though wisteria flowers are edible, the pods and the rest of the plant are in fact poisonous — 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!