A Tasteful Dish of Edible Tulips

February 5, 2021 by

edible filled tulip petals canapesTulip canapés, Maddocks Farm Organics.

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After a year we would all like to forget, colorful spring-blooming tulips will be a welcome feast for the eye as well as the palate. From the same botanical family as onions and garlic, tulips are one of many edible flowers. Some innovative professional and amateur chefs use the flowers to serve up a variety of beautiful and delicious tulip cuisine.

stuffed edible tulips iolanda bustos urbangardenswebStuffed tulips, Iolanda Bustos.

Tulips only bloom for 7-10 days but their petals need not go to waste. They can make a crisp and colorful accompaniment to a spring salad or other tulip dish. Young, fresh petals vary in scent, flavor and texture depending on their species–from sweet to earthy and grassy, or milky.

Tulip Prawn Cocktail, Maddocks Farm Organics.

Selecting Edible Tulips
Botanists categorize the flowers by genus, species and cultivar and commercially available tulips fall into 15 groups defined by shape, heritage and flowering time.

Sian Davis, Incredible Edible Flowers.

When selecting among the best tulip bulbs for sale to use as an edible ingredient, consider those whose scents offer a pleasant flavor and whose textures provide a little crunch. Single early tulips, especially red, coral and orange ones may be the most fragrant with a flavor that some describe as similar to peas or sweet lettuce.

stuffed edible tulip petalsStuffed tulip petals,  courtesy of Maddocks Farm Organics.

Wartime Tulip Consumption
Mention dining on tulips to any Dutch person who lived through the winter of 1944-1945 and they may likely grimace at the suggestion. That’s because pervasive famine during the wartime era forced many Dutch people to consume stores of the carbohydrate-rich old tulip bulbs that growers had been unable to plant during the war. These old, dry and bitter-tasting bulbs were sold in grocery stores and newspapers published recipes for them. The population supped on tulip soup or ground the dried bulbs into flour from which they made bread that many described as tasting like sawdust.

tulip bulb diagramDiagram via Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

The wartime recipe for tulip soup instructs cooks to first peel off the skin as one would an onion and emphasizes the importance of removing the germ as that part can be poisonous. When cooked, a fresh bulb may resemble a potato in taste and texture. If contemplating cooking with the flowers, make sure to purchase tulips that have not been treated with pesticides or fungicides. (Keep in mind too that some people may have an allergic reaction to the flower.)

DutchGrown’s fragrant “renown unique” tulip.

Supping and Sipping: Tulip Recipes and More
A few years ago I dined at La Calendula, a restaurant in Girona, Spain whose owner-chef Iolanda Bustos served up dishes containing locally foraged edible flowers. I reached out to Bustos to ask if she’d ever used tulips in her cuisine. “Indeed I have used tulips many times in the kitchen,” she told me. “They have a very fine taste, like sweet endive. I really like to fill them with fresh cheese and herbs, vegetable mousse, or cod with brandy. I also use the raw petals in salads, on carpaccios, and with cold creams. I’ve used their cup-shaped leaves along with lettuce in salads, adding a little oil and salt or a bit of mild vinaigrette.”

Café Gascon’s Tulips Primavera via Great British Chefs.

Chef Pascal Aussignac of London’s Michelin starred restaurant, Café Gascon, often includes edible flowers in his dishes either as garnishes or as the main ingredient. His recipe for Primavera Tulips combines tulip flowers and stems with spring onions, button mushrooms, shelled and sugar snap peas plated together on a bed of mixed salad leaves.

At Café Caron in Amsterdam, owner-chef Alain Caron assembles a Confit Tomato, Fennel, and Tulip Bulb Salad using tulip bulbs garnished with petals.

edible tulip bulb and petals saladConfit Tomato, Fennel and Tulip Salad, Photo via Blooomeffects and Alain Caron.

Jan Billington, the edible flowers specialist at Maddocks Farm Organics, serves her signature Tulip Prawn Cocktail within a fan of tulip petals whose flavor she compares to Cos Lettuce. She also suggests using the petals to garnish a sorbet.

Tulip Prawn Cocktail, Maddocks Farm Organics.

Sorbet garnished with tulip petals, Maddocks Farm Organics.

In Holland, Clusius Craft Distillers makes a vodka handcrafted from fermented tulip bulbs. Named for the famed Dutch botanist Carolus Clusius who planted the first tulips in the Netherlands (originating from Kazakhstan), the distillery makes two varieties–the Dutch Tulip Vodka Pure, made entirely of water and tulip bulbs, and the Dutch Premium Blend which contains around forty bulbs combined with grain spirits. The distiller offers recipes for several cocktails including Tulip Negronis:

Image via Clusius Craft Distillers.

Clusius Craft Tulip Negroni
Fill your glass with ice cubes. Add:1/3 Dutch Tulip Vodka Premium Blend
1/3 Campari
1/3 Sweet red vermouth
Stir into glass
Garnish with orange zest slice

Imagine a tulip-themed meal that begins with a cocktail of vodka made from tulips and an hors d’oeuvre of tulip petals stuffed with shrimp mousse. Move on to a two-course meal of tulip salad followed by tulips Primavera. Finish off with a sweet serving of candied tulip petals.


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    […] After a year we would all like to forget, colorful spring-blooming tulips will be a welcome feast for the eye as well as the palate. From the same botanical family as onions and garlic, … Read More… […]

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  4. Pamela Fitzsimons Howard said:

    This is the happiest, most inspiring e-newsletter I have received in months !
    I can’t thank you enough for sharing these marvelous ways to celebrate tulips ~ my favorite flower. Blessings.

    — February 7, 2021 @ 13:56

  5. Cathy Wilkinson Barash said:

    Great article! I am salivating at the thought of some of those recipes. I agree that orange yellow and red tulips have the best flavor and some, especially purple can be rather objectionable in taste. One of my favorite recipes is Tulip tuna which is basically tunafish salad with red yellow and orange tulips chopped up in it and served in a large bicolor red and yellow flame tulip – with the pistels and stamens removed. Over the years as I have served this to many guests they will comment on how good the tuna salad is. Invariably the whole tulip is still on their plate. When I asked them how they liked the tulips, I get this look like “oh poor thing she’s eating so many flowers she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” Then I explain to them that the tulips are what gave the tuna salad such a great flavor. Try dipping the succulent base of individual tulip petals in Melted chocolate for a decadent dessert. More tulip recipes in my book, “Edible Flowers from Garden to Palate,” Which has 68 different flowers and 278 recipes. So nice to be dreaming of all the fabulous Flavors when the windchill is 35° below zero. But I do know that I have some pineapple sage pineapple salsa in my freezer – yum

    — February 13, 2021 @ 16:40

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