I think most of us would admit to remembering our first taste of that sweet, delectable nectar squeezed out of a honeysuckle bloom when growing up.
It seems like it is a childhood ritual all around the world, but is it possible that honeysuckle can do more for us than just serving as a beautiful and fragrant ornamental or a source of fond childhood memories?
Can the honeysuckle serve as a valuable food source in a survival situation? What’s the deal: can you eat honeysuckle to survive?
Yes, you can eat certain species of honeysuckle safely. However, many are mildly toxic and should be avoided.
Whether you love it for its beauty and natural climbing ability or despise it because it is an aggressive and pesky invasive species, the honeysuckle is probably here to stay.
It is possible to eat a safe species in a survival situation so long as you can positively identify them. Keep reading and we will tell you all about it.
Where is Honeysuckle Found?
Honeysuckle species can be found all over the globe in the northern hemisphere, specifically across North America and much of Europe and Asia.
Although there are nearly 200 species of honeysuckle to be found, several are quite a bit more successful (and invasive) than others and are disproportionately more likely to be encountered when in the wild.
Growing as a deciduous shrub with vine-like branches, in ideal conditions these plants can top out well over 10 feet tall, with a few examples reaching 20 feet.
These plants, despite their delicate appearance, are quite hardy and readily establish themselves in areas that are not too hot or too cold.
Some species are also extremely popular as garden ornamentals, which means you can find them growing all over urban and suburban areas where they have been deliberately, or accidentally, transplanted.
Around these zones it is common to find some growing in the wild or in unexpected places since the berries of most species are popular with many herbivores which help the plant to reproduce elsewhere.
Caution: Some Honeysuckle Plants are Toxic
Before going any further, know that most species of honeysuckle are toxic, though the vast majority are only mildly poisonous. Most of them produce attractive, fragrant flowers and berries which are highly enticing.
Though no human deaths have been reported from eating these berries or other parts of the plant and toxic species, animal deaths have occurred and in any case they can make you quite sick.
However, certain species, namely the sweetberry honeysuckle or Lonicera caerulea has berries that are completely safe and delicious, and they can make for a good meal along with other parts of the plant.
On the other hand, other species such as the fly honeysuckle and tartarian honeysuckle are quite poisonous and you could be in for a very bad time if you eat the berries, and be made quite sick eating any other part of the plant.
There are many species of honeysuckle present around the world, though most regions have one or two that predominate.
If you plan on making use of wild edibles and honeysuckle in particular you must learn to positively identify the safe species in your area with no room for error.
Nutritional Facts about Honeysuckle
Good nutritional information about the honeysuckle plant is very difficult to come by aside from the fact that we know non-toxic species are completely safe to eat.
That being said, we know that honeysuckles do contain a decent assortment of vitamins and minerals including B complex vitamins, folate, and more.
You can generally rely on these plants to give you a reasonable boost of nutrition and some calories, and in particular the berries themselves can be a good source of quick energy and other vitamins that are necessary for long-term health.
What Does Honeysuckle Taste like?
Honeysuckle plants taste, as one would imagine, quite grassy with a distinctive bittersweet note associated with the blooms and some of the berries.
This is particularly noticeable when the plants are steamed as greens or steeped for use in tea.
The taste of the berries themselves can vary, however, depending on the species in the area in which they are growing.
Some have a notably tangy, tart taste with the notable exception of those berries growing on the sweetberry species which have a wonderful honey-like flavor that is similar to the aroma of the blooms.
Can You Eat Honeysuckle Nectar?
Yes, you can safely eat the nectar of all honeysuckle plants.
However, aside from the highly transient but deliciously sweet taste you have to eat a truly colossal amount to get any real calories or other nutrition out of it. Still, it could be a good morale boost in a survival situation!
Can You Eat Honeysuckle Flowers?
Yes, you can, assuming they come from a safe species. The flowers are tender and very delicate, and lend themselves well to consumption as part of a salad or to being steeped as tea.
Can You Eat Honeysuckle Stems and Stalks?
Once again, yes. All parts of the plant are safe to eat if the species is non-toxic. The vine-like stems and stalks of the honeysuckle generally benefit from gentle cooking prior to eating in order to soften them up because they have a fibrous, if crisp, texture when eaten raw.
Can You Eat Honeysuckle Berries?
Yes, you can. Once again assuming they come from a plant that is safe, though even the berries from toxic species are only mildly toxic most of the time.
From a safe species, they tend to be juicy, sweet, and tart much like a blueberry. A few species produce wonderfully sweet berries that have high sugar content, great for a quick boost of energy. All have a solid assortment of vitamins and minerals.
Do note, however, if you were to eat too many of the barriers for a toxic species you could experience headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as a consequence.
Now is a good time to remind readers that they should never eat any part of any plant that they have not positively identified as 100% safe.
If you have any doubts, you should consult an expert on wild edible plants or in an extreme situation perform the standard field edibility test.
Can You Eat Honeysuckle Raw?
Yes, you can. All parts of safe honeysuckle species are safe to eat raw, though there might be other complications associated with eating any uncooked wild-sourced plant. See below.
Are There Risks Associated with Eating Honeysuckle?
The biggest risk associated with eating wild honeysuckle, aside from eating from a toxic species that was misidentified, is from the possibility of getting food poisoning from one or more of a variety of harmful germs.
These germs will usually result in a fever, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and sometimes vomiting which will lead to rapid dehydration and electrolyte depletion aside from making you miserable as all hell.
In a survival situation, this dehydration could prove deadly if you are already ailing or if your body is stressed from injury or other illnesses.
Though it is nominally safe to eat a non-toxic species of honeysuckle raw, you are always best advised to thoroughly wash the plants if you can and if you are in doubt gently cook them in order to eliminate these harmful germs prior to eating.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.