3/26/2012

Eat Your Tulips

Like asparagus, tulips are only available for a short season.
Tulips are food as well as beautiful spring flowers. During 1944-45 after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and cut off food supplies, the Dutch survived by eating tulip bulbs. The rich history of the tulip is described in one of my favorite books, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan.
Tulips are edible, Narcissus, and jonquils are NOT.
Most of us, when we look at a spring bed of bulbs, as above, don't first think of food, we see instead, the coming of spring, encouragement that winter is over. Some years ago I supplied fresh-cut herbs and flowers to the regionally famous Dairy Hollow House Restaurant and Bed and Breakfast in Eureka Springs, AR. Every spring, the proprietors, Ned Shank and author, Crescent Dragonwagon, asked for tulip flowers. It was always a dilemma for me, cutting my much-awaited tulips to sell, or leave them in place for their beauty. (To overcome this quandary, I simply planted more tulips!)
All tulips are edible, both the flowers and bulbs. Narcissus, jonquils and many other spring-flowering bulbs are not edible. Stick to tulips, they're safe. Are all tulips alike? No, just as the colors vary, so do the fragrances and flavors.
 The top flower is perfect for picking.
For example, most white tulips have little fragrance. Yellows and deeper colors, like deep red and variegated ones, usually have the best fragrance. Deep purple ones are my favorite as they have a deeper, fruity fragrance.

However, choose any color you have on hand. And just what are you going to do with them, you may wonder? You're going to prepare them and stuff them with something salad-like.

Pick tulips in the morning, when the flower has recently opened. While tulip flowers last for several days, it when they have recently opened that they are best to use. Why? The flavor is best then, and the petals remain attached to the stem best then, as well.

Lightly rinse the tulip flower, then gently reach into the center and remove the center parts - the stamen and pistil. You could leave those in, but you'll have pollen on the food you are adding, so I like to take those parts out (they just snap off easily).

Remove the center stamen and little pistils around it.
Now you're ready for stuffing your tulip flowers for a very elegant spring meal. I use chicken salad for the stuffing, simply because that's a favorite food of mine, but Crescent, at Dairy Hollow House sometimes made a curried vegetarian stuffing with eggs, steamed green beans and other things I don't recall (but you can likely find in one of her many cookbooks, probably Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread). You could also use tuna salad or most any favorite springtime luncheon salad)

Here's my chicken salad recipe. It has several ingredients, but it makes enough for several meals, and will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days, although it never lasts that long at our house.

Long Creek Chicken Salad
You can use either chicken breasts for this, or turkey.

6 cups diced, cooked chicken or turkey, mostly white meat
2 cups celery, medium-diced
4 scallions (or about 1/8 cup diced fresh chives)
2 tablespoons fresh garlic chives, chopped fine
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/2 cup (or a 5 ounce can) water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh sweet marjoram, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning)
1 cup pecans, toasted
1 cup (approx) seedless white grapes, cut in half
4 red radishes, sliced or coarsely diced
3/4 cup (approx.) Hellmann's mayonnaise (enough to moisten the salad)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients, mixing well. Add more mayo if needed. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Stuff about 1/2 cup into each whole tulip flower. Serve stuffed tulip on its side, on a lettuce leaf with your favorite cracker (or...make one from my book: Homemade Crackers with Herbs). Watch my cracker video for cracker inspiration. Enjoy spring and eat more tulips!

5 comments:

Terra said...

Thanks but I will stick to enjoying the beauty of tulips. Making crackers sounds fabulous though.

Carla said...

I will definitely be making these. I love the addition of the marjoram, one of my favorite herbs!

Carla said...

These crackers sound wonderful and if I had tulips I would be eating that salad! For now I will just make the crackers.

Randy said...

So put my two lips to a tulip you tell me. LOL I'm sure they do add a lovely color to any meal. Unfortunately, I don't plant them anymore. It's just too much work to dig them up and replant them. They are really beautiful, though.

Jim Long said...

Randy,
Thanks for the reminder, I forgot you Southerners can't easily grow tu-lips in your area unless you dig'em and refrigerate. Sorry.

Jim