It may be no surprise to see potted hostas for sale at your local farmer’s market, early in the planting season, along with other garden favorites, but would you recognize the young shoots and leaves if they were bundled and hawked as fresh produce? Forget the side of asparagus or a lettuce salad, and say hello to hostas!
Hostas have long been used as a food source, and are most commonly consumed in Japan. Legend suggests that where H. montana grows like a weed in the northern mountain regions of Japan, locals took advantage of the easy nutritional value and eventually began cultivating the crop.
Hostas and prawns
Today, the plant is sold as Urui, and the shoots, leaves and flowers are all edible. The soft texture and mild, less bitter flavor of young shoots is preferred to older growth. It is best to harvest leaves in the morning, when they have the highest moisture content. They can be eaten raw or cooked (boiled) and I have seen descriptions of taste which include snow pea pods, asparagus, lettuce and spinach. Snipping the blooms may seem gruesome to some hosta fanatics, but the flowers are also edible and can be used to beautify your salad or featured as a cake decoration.
Although all species appear to be edible, H. montana and H. sieboldii are the most common vegetable favorites, while H. plantaginea is preferred for the sweet delicacy of flower consumption. An interesting aside, the Chinese frequently plant fields of H. plantaginea for honey production.
Recipes usually boil the stems or leaves, and then serve the vegetable in salad, dressed with sauce or paste, pickled, in sushi, or fried as tempura. I have yet to see hostas available in my local vegetable aisle, and therefore believe that the curious will have to make some sacrifices in their own garden! Just remember to avoid any plants that you have treated with systemic insecticide. Check the Plants for a Future website for more information on specific species: www.pfaf.org.
I haven’t tried it yet, but I found this recipe at http://www.giboshiarekore.com/recipe.html
Urui with Vinegar Mustard Miso Dressing
Hosta (H. montana or whatever hosta you’d like to try)
White miso (bean paste)
Sake (Japanese rice wine) or mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
Vinegar (Kenya recommends rice vinegar)
- Prepare Hosta:
- Cut off fresh leaves of hosta (preferably H. montana) just above the crown. Wash them well, and cook in boiling water with a little salt for 1/2 minute to 1-1/2 minutes. Drain well in a colander. Cut the leaves into 1 to 2 inches.
- Prepare VMM Dressing:
- Place white miso and sugar (about 1 : 0.7) in a small sauce pan
- Add some sake or mirin just enough so it is easy to mix
- Cook over low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon
- It is done when it turns creamy
- Cool the miso mixture
- Add vinegar to thin the miso mixture and mix well with a whisk
- Prepare mustard if you use dry one; Luke-warm water makes the mustard spicier
- Add the mustard to your taste to the miso mixture, and mix more with a whisk
- Serve the cooked hosta with the dressing