A very welcome sight after a hard winter, forsythia is often one of the first blooming deciduous shrubs, bursting into bright yellow overnight to then lose its bloom two weeks after, becoming rather boring for the rest of the year again.

This genus is named after William Forsyth, a British royal gardener who brought the plant from China to England. Nowadays, it is commonly cultivated as a low-maintenance ornamental bush.

Description and species

Forsythia (Forsythia spp), also known as golden bell, is a deciduous shrub in the family of Oleraceae (Olive family). There are about ten different forsythia species and several cultivars, mostly native to eastern Asia..

This bush can grow quickly into a 3m tall monster, well appreciated in gardens for their abundant bright yellow flowers that bloom in early spring, just before the leaves appear. These are bright green, developing a tinge of red before falling in autumn.

The fruit reminds me to beech nuts, as it’s a dry brown capsule containing several winged seeds.

Notes on edibility

Even though it’s a common ornamental, there is not a great deal of information readily available on forsythia as an edible plant, therefore caution is advisable. It seems that the safest part to eat are the flowers, however it remains unclear how safe they are.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Forsythia suspensa fruit (lian qiao) is well appreciated as a medicinal herb. Fairly recent studies suggest the fruit might potentially cause cancer, so cautious approach is advisable again.

It is also widely stated that forsythia flowers are able to produce lactose (milk sugar), which tends to be present in milk. However, I could not find evidence on this.

Foraging on season

Forsythia is an extremely popular ornamental shrub in parks and gardens all over the UK and is seldom found out of cultivated spaces.

They start blooming in early Spring, producing a spectacular display of bright yellow flowers to cheer you up when no other flowers are present around.

It is best to pick blossoms early morning in a sunny day, as you would do with any other flower. They are generously abundant, but you don’t need to pick more than a few anyway.

Storage and processing

There is no need to dry and preserve your flowers, as they don’t impart any specific flavour to food. Out of season, forsythia can be substituted by gorse as alternative yellow floral decoration because they can be found pretty much all year round.

Culinary use and recipes

Blossoms are edible raw, even though I find them slightly bitter. The point of using the flowers is to cheer up your meals with a splash of golden colour to your presentations.

 Toss a few fresh flowers in a salad, combining with other foraged leaves in season, like sorrel or dandelion. Alternatively, you can use them for baking bread and decorate cookies.

It can be made into syrup, jelly, tea and infusions and petals can be added to gin & tonic. However, I cannot find any reason flavour-wise.

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