How to recognize redbud blossoms

I learned about these local edible blossoms just a few days ago here, and the very day after reading about them, saw a tree next to my house that looked like the picture shared.  I was pretty positive the first time I walked by the trees after reading about them that these were redbud blossoms, but to be sure, we picked some to bring in and compare.

Redbud blossoms
Photo by Bob Gress – the blossoms above are mostly closed and just beginning to bloom

Sure enough, it was a match, and I’m delighted to have another wild edible to add to my list of local foragable foods!  The tree is beautiful, and now that I know what it looks like, see that they’re in bloom all over my city.

How can you recognize these lovely edible blossoms?  The tree is usually less than twenty feet tall, with young trees having a smooth, gray bark.  More mature trees have a reddish-brown bark with flattened scaly plates.  The flowers are a beautiful pinkish color, and the central petal (called a standard) is flanked by two more petals (called wings).  Below them are two more petals called keels.  (Tell your kids all about this when you’re picking them and you’re learning about science and botany!)  The leaves of the tree are like a heart shape.  (More details here.)

Since we have so many dogs locally, I don’t do much foraging of things that grow on the ground for obvious reasons.  Seeing the abundance of these blossoms growing on trees so close by has got my frugal juices flowing!  I’ve scoured the internet for ideas on how to use them, and seen some yummy sounding ideas.  Use them in muffins, pancakes, for dessert with yogurt and berries, sprinkled into salad, pickled, or made into jam!

Redbud blossoms have an almost nutty flavor; they more closed they are, the more tart they are; the open blossoms have a sweet flavor that is very pleasant.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that they are high in vitamin C, because the tart flavor makes one think in that direction.

The young pods of this tree are also supposedly edible, but since they come out after the flowers, I haven’t yet had a chance to taste them.  I often wondered when I saw these pods if they were edible, but didn’t know what the tree was called.  Now that I know what the tree looks like, I plan to experiment by using the pods in stir fries in place of snow peas.


8 thoughts on “How to recognize redbud blossoms

  1. They sound wonderful! Perhaps you could jelly them, like (I think?) people do with rose hips?
    Just curious: Is there any chashash of bugs in them? I always worry about edible flowers, even when I can’t see anything on the plant… :-(

  2. I’m so glad to have inspired you to forage for redbuds! If you want an idea of what to make with them, I made lemon ices and mixed a whole bunch of redbuds into them. It was really yummy. It did add an interesting texture to the ices which my mom and grandmother didn’t like, but my family really enjoyed it. Next time I might chop up the flowers first instead of adding them whole.

  3. We have lots of these trees around here also. I would be concerned though if they were sprayed with chemicals. Interestingly I was just reading about this tree today, in a book I picked up a few years back called Tzamchei Marpei – madrich sadeh l’tzamchei hamarpei shel eretz Yisrael by Nisim Krisfil. It’s a very nifty guide for identifying all kinds of native plants here and the many folk remedies associated with them. So it said there that crushed red buds could be applied to wounds and fungal infections and that the leaves are used for eye infections, something i haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else. This book is coming in very handy in identifying my various weeds, er, medicinal plants and other local plant finds, many of which figure in this book. My only complaint is that it’s not an exhaustive guide and there is only one picture per plant, not always to scale, so sometimes it’s hard to use. One of these days I’ll get around to writing about it, I hope:) Have a good moed!

    1. Regina, this is fascinating information, thanks so much for sharing! I love learning about the medicinal properties of the plants growing locally.

  4. i noticed these trees along my walking path, and then read your blog the
    next day! There are also trees with white flowers which look exactly the same
    as the pink! My kids and I were tasting them today, and I noticed a lot of little tiny bugs in the white flowers; what do you do about the bug thing?
    Thanks for the interesting info; it makes EY even more beautiful!

    1. I haven’t tried the white flowers, but I did look inside the pink flowers and didn’t see anything. If I saw that insects were an issue, then I’d dry them and use them medicinally, in a tea or something like that where the liquid would be strained.

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