THE METROPOLITAN NATURALIST
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)


This is one of the earliest spring flowering trees. The clusters of purple flowers emerge before the leaves and are
seen on roadsides and in the forest understory.

The flowers
of the Redbud Tree are edible and can be put in salads to add color and flavor, or eaten right off the
tree. They have a slightly "nutty" texture
. I eat a few flowers to get a dose of vitamins when I pass a tree in bloom
on spring hikes. I also have been known to sprinkle a few flowers on salads to add a little color and flavor.

When the leaves start to open they also can be eaten, raw, steamed, or sauteed.

The seed pods, which look like pea pods (the redbud is in the pea family), start to grow about the time the leaves
are getting too old and tough to eat.

I have several redbud trees next to my driveway and they bloom every spring in probably late March through April.

When our trees were in bloom, I was grabbing a handful of flowers every morni
ng on my way to my car or when
walking the dog
.

When the leaves started to open I would grab a leaf or two on my way out to walk
the dog. The leaves have a mild
taste that is q
uite good when they are small. But as they get larger they seem to get a slightly unpleasant taste.

Now the small unripe seed pods are hanging from the branches. I grabbed a
handful this evening to try cooking
them. I sauteed them in
a little bit of water until they were soft. The very small pods were very edible, not delicious,
but I
expect that they could easily be made delicious with seasonings. The more mature pods had a slightly
unpleasant taste, but were not inedible and could possibly be tasty if cooked in butter and salt. As the pods mature
in late spring and summer, they will become papery and inedible.
The reddish buds on the twigs in winter give the redbud tree its name.
The heart-shaped leaves turn yellow in the fall.
The purple or rose colored flowers emerge around April (March to May) in clusters on the
leafless tree. The leaves may start to emerge before the flowers are gone.
The twigs in winter are spotted with light colored lenticels.
Young pods can be sauteed or eaten raw.