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Foraging Forsythia, An Edible Spring Flower

Without realizing what they were, you’ve probably seen Forsythia flowers many times before. They’re one of the first dazzling blooms of the year, and very noticeable to say the least. But not only is the bright yellow flowering shrub a beautiful reminder that spring has finally arrived, foragers realize that it’s blossoms can be eaten and that certain parts of the plant have several medicinal properties to them. 

Wondering what some of them may be? I’d be happy to share a few of them with you. Here’s more on foraging Forsythia along with the many amazing health benefits that the plant brings. 

Plant name 

The scientific name for the flowering plant is called Forsythia suspensa (genus Forsythia), but it also goes by other names such as Golden-bell fruit and Weeping forsythia fruit. It also goes by the nickname Easter Tree, signifying the beginning of spring. Forsythia is a part of the olive family (Oleaceae).

A botanical illustration of a forsythia branch
A botanical illustration of forsythia from “Edwards Botanical Register” 1847

Parts Used

The flowers and the young leaves of the flowering shrub are both edible. The older the leaves get, the more bitter tasting they become. The ancient Chinese used the dried fruit for medicinal purposes as people still do today.  The fruit of the forsythia shrub is is a small, nut-like capsule which contains seeds.

When and Where it Grows

Although native to Europe, Korea, and China, the Forsythia shrub can also be found scattered all over the Northeastern parts of Canada and the United States. There’s a good chance you may have seen them decorating city parks before without even realizing it. Forsythia blooms in early spring, as they enjoy full to partial sun. The shrub can grow as much as 24 inches in a single year and eventually reach a height of 10 feet.

A forsythia shrub in bloom.

How to Identify

There are 11 different species of Forsythia but it’s still fairly easy to identify because the plant has very few lookalikes. It has several long thin-like branches with tiny yellow flowers that run all along them at right angles, usually with one to three flowers per node. Its leaves are dark green and narrow with a lighter green underside, but there are also golden leaf varieties as well. Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is probably the closest shrub that resembles Forsythia. Its fruit is not considered edible.        

Culinary Uses

While Forsythia isn’t particularly nutritious, it does contain several antioxidant properties, including rutin, which helps to prolong the effectiveness of vitamin C. People use the flower part of the plant to sprinkle over their salads and also as a colorful garnish for certain foods. It can be enjoyed when brewed with other herbs in a tea or added in with a syrup. Forsythia blooms have an amazing taste that seems part honeysuckle combined with jasmine. The blossoms can also be consumed raw. Besides eating, people also use Forsythia to make a salve, infused oils, and homemade soap with it.    

Forsythia Syrup

Forsythia Recipes and DIY Projects to Try

Health Uses

The ancient Chinese realized that the Forsythia fruit had many external and internal uses that it could help treat due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Several of its external uses included treating:

  • Rashes 
  • Burns 
  • Cuts 
  • Infections 

While internally it could be used for treating symptoms like: 

  • Headaches
  • Fevers
  • Chills 
  • Muscle soreness
  • When combined with other herbs, forsythia may help to treat bronchiolitis 
  • There’s evidence that it helps get rid of internal parasites   

When prepared as tea, the young leaves of the Forsythia shrub are thought to help with symptoms such as diarrhea, flu, and sore throat. The plant also contains what is known as oleanolic acid, which can help people maintain not only healthy blood pressure but also a healthier heart.   

How to Harvest

Harvesting the flowers of a forsythia shrub is easy enough. Simply pinch the flower away from the stem and they should come off without much effort. As mentioned earlier, the leaves are edible also, but they’ll become more bitter the older they get so snip off the leaves while they’re still young.  

How to Store 

To store Forsythia properly, allow the blossoms to dry out and then place them in an airtight container in your pantry where they will stay fresh and dry. They should last for a few days. 

Not only is the flowering shrub a beautiful decoration in early spring, but it’s also one that can be foraged for food as well as for its medicinal properties, including treating headaches, flu-like symptoms, as well as infections. 

However, there is evidence out there that Forsythia may slow blood clotting, so it is not recommended to consume for pregnant women or for those that are having surgery in the foreseeable future. What surprised you the most about Forsythia and its many uses?  

Forsythia is one of the first signs of spring, but these beautiful yellow flowers are also edible! With a taste reminiscent of jasmine and honeysuckle you don't want this flower to pass you by. Find out how to make use of this spring flower.

Suzanna

Sunday 25th of September 2022

Thank you for the info, do rabbits like to eat it?

Forsythia Syrup Recipe - Off To The Wild

Thursday 5th of May 2022

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