Are Hostas Edible for Humans or Pets? Are They Deer-Resistant?

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are hostas edible

Have you found yourself asking the question, “Are Hostas edible?” Perhaps someone told you they were and the idea seems almost absurd, so you find yourself here. Well, I’m going to give you the answer, right here and right now.

Yes, all parts of the Hosta are edible for humans. New shoots are the best-tasting part. They have a pleasant flavor somewhere between lettuce and asparagus. Although still edible, mature leaves develop a bitter flavor and the flowers don’t have much taste.

Humans Eating Hostas Through History

Hostas are native to Asia, most notably Japan. In fact, many Japanese people are probably well aware of the answer to the question: “Are Hostas Edible?”

This is because Japanese people have eaten Hostas for hundreds of years. They refer to them as urui and they prepare them in numerous different ways, including tempura frying, boiling, and sauteeing. They even eat them raw at times.

In Japanese culture, they belong to a group known as “wild mountain vegetables” (aka Sansai) due to the fact that they’re often harvested rather than grown. This is a broad category of numerous wild-growing plants that foragers actively seek out.

The practice of eating Hostas was largely lost on Westerners when they brought Hostas over from the East.

What Does Hosta Taste Like?

Hostas are in the Asparagus family and their flavor is actually very reminiscent of asparagus. You can even harvest new shoots by snapping them off at the base, very similar to how you would snap the ends off of asparagus.

Imagine a taste somewhere between lettuce and asparagus with a hint of green onion. There are slight variations depending on the breed or species that you’re eating.

Older leaves are bitter and tougher, while the young leaf shoots are more tender and palatable. They have a fantastic crunch that’s similar to Romaine Lettuce.

You can even throw them raw in a salad for a nice flavor and texture contrast. Just be sure you wash them really well.

Are Hosta Flowers Edible?

Yes, Hosta flowers are edible. However, their flavor isn’t much to speak of. Where these flowers really shine in a culinary setting is either as a garnish or in a salad.

Hosta flowers make for beautiful color contrasts on the side of a plate. And you’ll definitely get people talking if you put Hosta flowers in your salads.

I recommend mixing them into a colorful summer salad with strawberries, blueberries, and herbs, It just looks cool and it tastes great.

Remember to wash them well and keep in mind whether you’ve used any pesticides or other chemicals. In which case, I don’t recommend eating them.

How To Harvest Hosta Shoots

Alright, so now you know the answer to the question, “Are Hostas edible?” Now you need to know how to get these tasty shoots the right way.

  1. Find a supply of Hostas that are grown pesticide/herbicide/chemical free. These could be your own, or perhaps you have a very accomodating friend that doesn’t mind you eating their landscape.
  2. Wait until your target Hostas’ shoots are nice and green at the top, but the leaves are still curled. You don’t want the leaves to be unfurling, but you do want them to have some of the leaf exposed. The tighter the leaf curl, the more tender it is.
  3. Go out in the morning. At least a few hours before noon. Seasoned Hosta harvesters swear that they have a better flavor when they’re harvested in the morning.
  4. You should be able to snap the shoots off at the bottom (like asparagus) with your hands. However, you can also use clippers.
  5. If you’re worried about your plant growing and blooming properly, leave roughly half of the shoots in a symmetrical pattern. If you’re only growing them for food, pick as many as you like.

These shoots will last about as long as other picked vegetables in the fridge. I recommend eating them the same day. After all, it doesn’t get much fresher than that.

Are Hostas Poisonous to Dogs?

Yes, Hostas are poisonous to dogs. Fortunately, most dogs won’t have any interest in chewing on them. But if you have a dog that chews on anything and everything, this is something to keep in mind.

So why are Hostas edible for people and poisonous to dogs?

Well, Hostas contain glycoside Saponins. In the human body, cholesterin inactivates these Saponins and our mucus membranes are the only things affected. So it acts as an expectorant, like cough medicine sort of.

Dogs’ bodies don’t inactivate these Saponins. Therefore, they are subject to the following symptoms if they consume Hostas:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting & Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Twisting of intestines
  • General distress
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal heartbeat

If your dog consumes Hosta plant material and starts to experience these symptoms, call your veterinarian. They will know how to treat your dog for Saponin toxicity. They may also want you to bring in a sample of the plant to aid in treatment.

As far as toxic plants go, Hostas are certainly not the worst plants that your dog could eat. But, it can still be serious and it’s something to consider when growing Hostas.

One trick to prevent pets from chewing on certain plants is to fill a squirt bottle with lemon juice and water. Then, give the plant a healthy spray on the leaves. Roughly a 3:1 (water to lemon juice) mixture should do it.

Are Hostas Poisonous to Cats?

Yes, Hostas are poisonous to cats. So this is something to consider if you have outdoor cats. Some cats like to chew on plants and others don’t.

Cats are subject to the same symptoms as dogs if they consume Hosta:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting & Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Twisting of intestines
  • General distress
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal heartbeat

If your cat consumes Hosta plant material and starts to show these symptoms, call your veterinarian and let them know that you believe your pet has Saponin toxiciy. Make sure you bring a sample of the plant in when you take your pet to the vet.

As with dogs, cats find the tartness of lemons distasteful. Therefore, try spraying your Hostas with a 3:1 (water to lemon juice) mixture to keep your cats from eating your plants.

Are Hostas Deer Resistant?

No. Mother nature must have it out for gardeners because, unlike cats and dogs, deer are not negatively affected by Hostas and will not avoid them. In fact, it’s even worse than that. Deer LOVE Hostas.

are hostas edible for deer?
Photo by Priyadharshan Saba

So why are Hostas edible for deer? It goes back to those Saponins. They don’t affect deer in the same way that it affects dogs and cats.

Deer enjoy snacking on the young shoots, as well as the mature leaves. So, if you have a deer problem, you’ll have to employ typical deer deterrents to keep your plants safe.

Some gardeners have great success with commercial deer repellants, as well as, motion-activated sprinklers.

Aggressively spreading Hostas are more likely to survive occasional snacking from deer.

Wrapping Up: Are Hostas Edible?

So when it comes to the questions: “Are Hostas Edible?” It depends on who you’re referring to.

For humans and deer? Yes.

For dogs and cats (and horses, although I didn’t cover them in detail)? No.

So remember to perform the appropriate due diligence if you have pets that frequently make a meal out of your yard.

Thank you for reading! I put a lot of time and work into these posts, so if you got value from this, please share it with one of the social buttons below.

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