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Harvesting honeysuckle blossoms

 
Posts: 85
Location: West Virginny and Kentuck
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When a plant is epidemic, find a use for it, eh?

Ever since my first pregnancy, I've been scent sensitive, especially in soaps and lotions, and avoid them as a rule.  But I do love scents in nature, and adore honeysuckle in the late spring.

Daughter's friend makes a body lotion using honeysuckle blossoms, and WOW!  it is good!

Asking about her recipe, she admitted to buying her dried blossoms.  Well!  I'll trade the labor for the recipe, I sez.

So I collected a gallon of blossoms the next morning, joining the bumblebees and hummingbirds at their breakfast repast.  Gathered by the handful, I let them dry for a couple of days on paper and bagged them.  They shrink in volume alarmingly, but stored in a paper bag, retain their odor.

Has anyone else harvested honeysuckle blossoms and can you offer any pointers?
 
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We started harvesting honeysuckle blossoms this spring to put on our salads, but never a gallon at a time.  We would bring a small container and pick them by ones and twos along with spiderwort and nasturtium blossoms.   They make for a great salad and are definitely abundant!  I just don't have the type of large scale gathering experience it sounds like you are looking for.  
 
Ruth Meyers
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I hadn't considered eating them.  It's mostly post blossom time, but there were a few blooms still.  I'll have to try it next weekend when I'm tromping over and through the mounds of vines.  It's blackberry season!
 
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How certain are we that the flowers aren't toxic?  

Also, are we talking about the common (in North American often considered invasive) Japanese Honeysuckle, or one of the native species?

I had a niggle in the back of my brain that honeysuckle foraging safety was tricky.  I haven't made a detailed research project, but Green Dean at Eat The weeds has a good article, from which my takeaway is "it's complicated, and it depends" -- a perfect Permies plant!

About honeysuckle species generally, he writes:

The honeysuckle family is iffy for foragers. It has edible members and toxic members, edible parts, toxic parts, and they mix and match. Some are tasty, some can stop your heart. So you really have to make sure of which one you have and which part is usable and how.

...

There are about 180 species of honeysuckle, most native to the northern hemisphere. The greatest number of species is in China with over 100. North America and Europe have only about 20 native species each, and the ones in Europe are usually toxic.  Taste is not a measure of toxicity. Some Lonicera have delicious berries that are quite toxic and some have unpalatable berries that are not toxic at all. This is one plant on which taste is not a measure of edibility. Properly identify the species.



As for Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), which I assume (but note, assumptions could be deadly here!) is the honeysuckle under discussion: he lists the edible parts as the nectar (note, he does not say "flowers") and the leaves, after cooking.  Furthermore:


The Japanese Honeysuckle...is the honeysuckle kids grew up with, picking the flowers for a taste of sweetness. Young leaves are edible boiled.

...

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Nectar sucked off the ends of the flowers, young leaves boiled. In China leaves, buds and flowers are made into a tea but the tea may be toxic. Proceed carefully.



Nothing here that unequivocally condemns the Japonica flowers, but I wanted to share this information so people can make their own suitably-cautious decisions.  The actual non-nectar flower parts, by themselves, aren't individually and specifically discussed in the article.  I don't imagine they are a huge problem, but it sounds like things could quickly go south if somebody was foraging one of the toxic European varieties and didn't realize all honeysuckle is not created equal.  Be careful out there!

 
Ruth Meyers
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Thanks for asking and posting clarification materials, Dan.

I was referring to Japanese honeysuckle, though I have both the vine and a bush honeysuckle in my in-town yard.  Both volunteers.  I'm trying to decide whether to keep the bush variety.  It does offer winter bird food.
 
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