Arrowleaf Balsamroot in the Kitchen: A Recipe for Springtime Simplicity

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

When you think of balsamroot, you probably think of the purple-petaled, yellow-centered flower that bursts forth in the alpine summer and inspires its own hashtag. But this cool-climate plant has more to offer than just eye candy. In fact, arrowleaf balsamroot is one of my favorite plants to harvest for the kitchen.

Arrowleaf balsamroot is a member of the mustard family and has a similar spice profile. All parts of the plant are edible (even the roots), but I especially love using its silvery, fernlike leaves in salads and as an herb in other dishes. The flavor is slightly spicy with hints of mustard greens and cress. Here’s how to get some from your garden to your table:

When and Where to Harvest Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Any time you can access fresh, local food, it’s a good thing. But summer has its own set of harvest considerations. A summer harvest is subject to seasonal rainfall and humidity, which can affect flavor and shelf life. And while balsamroot’s flowers are beautiful, they’re also very short-lived. Most of us don’t have the luxury of harvesting them in summer. Summer also means higher temperatures, which can damage or kill the plant.

In short, summer harvesting is a bit of a gamble. Spring, on the other hand, is when balsamroot is at its peak. The temperatures are cool, and it’s been established in the garden long enough to get a good root system going to withstand future frosts. Summer and fall can be dicey as well, so spring is really the only harvest season that can be relied upon.

How to Harvest Balsamroot Leaves

Balsamroots are perennial plants, so you’ll have an opportunity to harvest them for years to come. To do so, simply remove the outside leaves. If you’re harvesting for cooking, try to leave some stem attached, as it’s more tender than the leaves.

For best flavor and texture, harvest balsamroot leaves in the spring. If you have a large enough patch, you can harvest a few leaves at a time, but to encourage the plant to keep growing, don’t take more than 10 percent at any one time. You can also remove some of the leaves but not all of them if you want to let a few grow to bloom and reseed.

Make a Balsam Root Cream Sauce

The leaves of the balsamroot plant can be used to make a tangy and nutritious sauce that pairs well with fish, poultry, or veggies. It’s a two-step process: First, you’ll make a fresh balsamroot cream. Then you’ll transform that into a creamy balsamroot sauce by combining it with a bit of butter, heavy cream, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

For the cream, you’ll need 1/2 pound of cleaned and chopped balsamroot leaves, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Put all of your ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. To make the sauce, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk in your balsamroot cream and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. Simmer the sauce for about 2 minutes, whisking often, then remove it from the heat, stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper, and serve.

Balsam Root Tasting Party

Cooking with plants from your own backyard is a sure way to get kids excited about eating their vegetables, but it’s also a great way to learn about new edibles and their potential uses in the kitchen. Balsamroot is a great place to start because it’s so accessible. You can even try to have a taste test with other edibles in your garden. Here are some ideas.

  • What does young balsamroot taste like? How about older balsamroot?
  • What do balsamroot leaves taste like compared to the flowers?
  • How does balsamroot compare to other edibles in your garden?
  • What does balsamroot smell like?
  • How does it feel in your mouth?
  • Are there any other edibles in your garden that have a similar taste or texture?

Arrowleaf Balsamroot Soup

Once you’ve harvested your balsamroot leaves, what are you going to do with them? You could, of course, make a cream sauce. But if you want to turn them into something a little more substantial, try this arrowleaf balsamroot soup.

To make the soup, start by sautéing some diced onion in some butter until soft, then add 2 cups of arrowleaf balsamroot leaves and sauté them until they wilt. Next, add 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock and simmer the soup for 10 minutes or so. Once the soup is cooked, puree it with an immersion blender or put it in a blender and blend until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Wrapping Up: Celebrate Spring and Edible Flowers

Balsamroot is just one of many edible flowers and herbs you can use to add a little springtime magic to your dishes. Bladder Campion (also known as wild golden currant): Both the flowers and the leaves are edible, with a slightly sour taste. Use them as a garnish or in salads.

Blossoms from Columbine: Harvest the blossoms from columbine flowers and use them as garnishes or in salads. Columbine blossoms can be red, yellow, orange, or pink. Blossoms from Culver’s root: Culver’s root is a type of wild ginger native to the northwest. Its flowers are edible, and they make a beautiful garnish for desserts and drinks. Blossoms from Dandelions: Dandelions are one of the most prolific edible flowers you can grow. Harvest the flowers and use them in salads or as a garnish.


Arrowleaf balsamroot is a wonderful springtime edible that tastes great in salads, soups, and more. To harvest balsamroot, simply remove the outside leaves, and use them in a variety of dishes. Balsamroot is a perennial plant, so you can harvest it year after year. Although spring weather can be a bit fickle, you can still harvest balsamroot to enjoy its fresh flavor and beautiful flowers. Balsamroot is a great way to celebrate spring and enjoy the delicious taste of edible flowers.

*NOTICE: Articles in this publication are not meant to be used as a guide for medical treatment. These articles gather existing information about herbs, herbal remedies, and mushrooms for health and consumption. Hundreds of years of use of herbs for healing is gathered and published to help people to select alternative solutions to health conditions or to live a more healthy lifestyle.

Allergies and existing conditions can be exacerbated by herbs or mushrooms, so care must be taken in using remedies in these articles. Consult a physician or dietician if desired before using herbal remedies discussed here.**

  • Note: Some links to products or services in this article may be affiliate links and result in income to the author.

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