Yucca plant flowers bloom only once every seven years or so but usually every spring you will find them in abundance along the roadsides in the mountains of San Bernardino County. They are part of the asparagus plant family and the plant does look like a giant stalk of asparagus. However, I should note that not all members of the asparagus family are shaped like one, such as Convallaria majalis.
I had the distinct opportunity to taste yucca flowers freshly foraged from the town of Forest Falls along state route 38. This was a major burn area during the California wildfires last year. The fires may have nourished the soil as the burn areas were packed with yucca flower blooms this past spring.
I cooked them over the stove with butter as was recommended to me. I was told they would taste similar in some ways to artichokes yet have a soapy flavor, that boiling the flowers would minimize the soapy flavor, and that the water could be used to make soap. But, I wanted a taste of the soapiness. I found it to be more bitter than soapy, but refreshingly so, and I enjoyed the juicy crunchiness of the ends that connect to the stem. Yucca flowers are a source of saponins which account for its soapmaking properties as well as its potential for lowering cholesterol. However, I do not know how saponins should be consumed to derive health benefits, if any at all, or whether there are any risks to eating saponins.
When foraging plants for food, we should always be aware of the risks which could include diarrhea or worse. If you are a born and bred city dweller like me, ethnobotany and wilderness survival classes are probably going to be your best best in learning to identify edible flowers from poisonous ones. Suffice to say, I am happy to know that the yucca flowers I cooked did not produce any ill effect in me and I ate at least eight of them.
The flowers I cooked had been picked from this Yucca plant in Forest Falls
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Gebel
Yucca flowers ready to cook