Food & Drink

Can You Really Eat Redbud Tree Blossoms? Yes, and We Have Recipes

Four ways to use an unexpected delicacy of early spring

A pink eastern redbud tree in bloom in a forest

Photo: Adobe Stock

Redbud trees do such important work—splashing vibrant color across a drab landscape while the rest of spring’s arrival lags behind—that it’s almost rude to ask for more. But more they’ll do, if you lend a helping hand and use the blossoms to make lemonade, vinegar, and jelly or to spruce up a salad.

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“Redbud blossoms hang around only for a few weeks, usually blooming in March or April depending on where you live,” says Jan Berry, who lives in Central Virginia and writes about gardening and foraging for the website Unruly Gardening. “When you spot a tree in full flower, don’t wait too long to collect.”

If you’re lucky enough to have a redbud tree in your yard (or, heck, a neighbor’s yard), gathering blossoms is easy-peasy. Even if you need to go farther afield, they’re easy to identify. The light-to-bright-pink blossoms, sometimes tinged with purple, are about a half-inch long and grow in clusters directly against the tree’s branches. Each blossom has five petals: a middle “banner” petal flanked by two “wing” petals, plus two bottom petals that contain the stamen. (Tip: Redbud doesn’t have a toxic lookalike, but it’s always wise to consult a local foraging guide if you’re unsure. And avoid trees that may have been exposed to pesticides.)

photo: courtesy of Unruly Gardening
A spring salad dressed with redbuds and violets.

Making sure to leave most blossoms on the tree for pollinators, gather your twig-free harvest into a small container. They’re best used the same day but can be placed overnight in a refrigerator covered with a damp paper towel. Raw blossoms, rich in vitamin C, are a splashy addition to spring salads or the top of cakes. “The taste of the raw, fresh blossoms reminds me of snow peas,” Berry says. “Plus, they make your salad look all pretty and fancy.”

Here are three more of Berry’s recipes for making the most of redbud blossoms.

Redbud Pink Lemonade

This is a tangy, naturally pink lemonade, so add more sugar if you like it on the sweeter side

2 cups

A glass of pink lemonade on a piece of wood outside.


    • ¼ cup redbud blossoms, de-stemmed

    • 2 cups water, divided

    • 4–5 tbsp. sugar

    • 3 lemons

    • 1½ cups cold water


  1. Make redbud tea: Place blossoms in a large, heat-safe container and set aside. Bring ½ cup water to a boil in a small pot, pour over the flowers, and stir. Cover the container and let steep overnight in the fridge. After at least 12 hours, use a fine strainer to remove plant matter and set tea aside. (At this point, the tea should be a very pale pink or peach color.) 

  2. Make the lemonade: Cut and squeeze the lemons, making sure to remove seeds, and add the juice to the redbud tea. (The mixture will turn a brighter shade of pink.) Combine with remaining 1½ cups cold water. Add the sugar (or other sweetener of choice), stir to dissolve, taste, and add more sugar if desired.

Redbud-Infused Vinegar

Use this in homemade vinaigrette recipes or in place of balsamic vinegar

A cup of redbud vinegar


    • ⅓ cup redbud blossoms, de-stemmed

    • ⅔ cup white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar


  1. Fill a half-pint jar with the blossoms. Add the vinegar until the jar is almost full. Cover with a plastic lid and let steep for a week, or until it’s a strong pink color. (You can speed this process a bit by gently heating the vinegar before adding.) Use a fine-mesh strainer to remove plant matter, and store finished vinegar in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

Redbud Jelly

Made in the same way as dandelion or violet jelly, it has a strawberry-grape flavor

A hand holds a jar of red jelly against a redbud tree branch


  • Redbud Jelly (Yield: 4 half-pint jars)

    • 2 cups redbud blossoms, de-stemmed

    • 3 cups water

    • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

    • 1 pack Sure-Jell reduced-sugar pectin (1.75 oz. pink box)

    • 2½ cups white cane sugar

    • ½ tsp. unsalted butter (optional, to reduce foaming)


  1. Make redbud tea: Place blossoms in a large, heat-safe container and set aside. Bring water to a boil in a small pot, pour over the flowers, and stir. Cover loosely and set aside to steep for 24 hours, moving container to the refrigerator after the first two hours.

  2. After 24 hours, use a fine strainer to remove plant matter from the tea. Squeeze excess liquid from the blossoms with your fingers and discard blossoms. You should end up with 2½ cups or more of pink liquid. (If you taste at this point, don’t expect it to be sweet.)

  3. Make the jelly: Pour 2½ cups of the redbud tea into a large stockpot. Add the lemon juice and stir. (The pink color will intensify.) Place ¼ cup of the sugar in a bowl, add pectin powder, and mix to combine. Add to redbud tea mixture in the stockpot and stir to combine. Set stockpot on a burner turned to high. Stirring constantly with a spoon or whisk, bring the mixture to a roiling boil. Stir in the remaining sugar all at once, return to a roiling boil, and stirring constantly, boil for exactly one minute. (The jelly will foam up significantly; adding the optional butter will reduce foaming, but be careful to avoid splashing the hot liquid.)

  4. Remove from heat. The jelly will begin to set up quickly, so moving with deliberate but careful speed, ladle into clean, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving ¼ inch of space at top. Wipe the jar rims with a damp cloth to remove any sticky bits, place lids on top, and secure with rings. Leave out for 12 to 24 hours to cool and rest, then move the jars to the refrigerator, where they will keep for about three weeks.

  5. Note: This recipe is for jelly that will be stored in the refrigerator. If you prefer to put up for pantry storage, follow the hot water bath procedures you would for any shelf-stable canning.