Are deer devouring your hostas? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The common shady plant is edible, it turns out.

"The deer are onto something," said Pam McCurdy, who ate her first hosta dish in Beijing about 15 years ago. "It tastes kind of like a green bean, but a little more bitter."

Hostas are one of the world's most popular shade plants. In the United States, we grow them for their perennial beauty, but in Asia, hosta is grown as a commercial crop.

McCurdy, who lives in Maplewood, hasn't eaten hosta since her trip to China, but an article celebrating the plant as a bona fide edible vegetable has been circulating social media, and McCurdy thinks she's ready to give it another try.

"Why not?" she said. "I think about kale and how much I eat that now, but I don't ever remember eating it six or seven years ago."

Could dinner really be as close as our backyards and alleyways?

It really is that simple, said acclaimed New York forager Ellen Zachos. In her book, "Backyard Foraging," Zachos explains that the taste varies among species and cultivars, but all are safe to eat. The newest, tightest shoots are the most tender, so it's best to harvest them before the leaves start to unfurl.

Although there are no cookbooks devoted to hosta recipes — at least, not yet — those who eat it said hosta can be cooked much like asparagus or green beans. In Japan, hosta is often skinned, parboiled, chopped and served over rice with soy sauce.

On the Seed Savers Exchange forum (www.seedsavers.org), photos show hosta shoots alongside shrimp and ramen noodles, sauteed and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and wrapped in bacon.

@aimeeblanchette