Tulips really are edible... sort of

blushing tulips in Washington Park

Good eats? Maybe.

When Judy Stacey, Albany's city gardener, told us that tulips were edible, we were kind of surprised. It seems you were, too. So we decided to do a little digging.

It would appear that it's most accurate to say that parts of tulips are edible. And people do eat them. There are recipes, even.

There seems to be pretty wide consensus that the petals of tulips are OK to eat. They reportedly range in taste from "a mild bean-like taste, to a lettuce-like taste, to no taste at all." Apparently some people are allergic to them, so keep that in mind And you should never eat flowers that have been treated with fungicide or pesticides.

There are conflicting reports about the bulbs. Some say no, they're poisonous. Others say yes, if you know what you're doing. It seems that people have eaten tulip bulbs, but they don't taste very good. During World War II, people in Holland were forced to eat tulips and it doesn't sound like they were good eats. Here's how one Dutch person described it:

"Even though much of Western Europe had been liberated from Nazis control, Holland remained under their firm grip. I remember the hunger. We were forced to eat tulip bulbs and sugar beets because there was no other food," Father Leo Zonneveld told Pat Gravely in an account of life during the Second World War that appears online, which was written for the Veterans History Project.

"Bread made from tulips is not very good; I can tell you that! The skin of the bulb is removed, pretty much like an onion, and so is the centre, because that is poisonous. Then it is dried and baked in the oven. My mother or older sisters would grind the bulbs to a meal-like consistency.

"Then they would mix the meal with water and salt, shape it like a meatloaf, and bake it. I can still remember the taste of it: like wet sawdust."

Um, no thanks. More contemporary reports indicate tulip bulbs haven't gotten any better tasting.

There are a bunch of recipes that use tulip petals: as cups for mousse, accents for tuna, for salad dressing, and little dishes for appetizers. We even turned up a recipe for tulip wine, which is apparently "a lovely white".

So, there's more than you probably ever wanted to know about eating tulips. As with anything like this that doesn't come from the supermarket, it's probably smart to err very much on the side of caution. And, really, you don't want to be the guy who got knocked over by a tulip.

Bottom line

Yes, tulips are edible. The petals, if not treated with chemicals, make good garnishes. The bulbs can be poisonous -- and it doesn't sound like they're worth the trouble.

Comments

So, all this tulip pride stuff is quite interesting to a Delaware import like me. But, on the Daily Gazette's website there's a poll that says only 29 out of 202 people are going to the Tulip Festival this weekend. Why is that? I thought it was supposed to be something people look forward too? I'm actually kind of bummed.

The week's greatest headline that should have been but never was::

PLEASE DON'T EAT THE TULIPS

@Rob: If only!

i've eaten tulip stems and they taste like raw green beans...yumyum.. :)

I'm surprised that tulips are edible! If only I found this recipe for a pretty dish ["Spring Tulip with Grand Marnier BC Strawberries": http://www.5to10aday.com/en_recipe_details.asp?id=52] sooner I would have liked to try it with the tulips from my mother's garden--they're a lovely dark purple. I would sprinkle some petals for a garnish.

so glad to hear this. I just caught my seven month old reaching over the top of his bouncer chair shoving tulip petals in his month.

If you are getting psyched for the return of tulip time in Albany, I recommend reading the section on tulips in Michael Pollan's "The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World." He tells the fascinating story of "tulip mania" in Holland when a single tulip bulb was sold for the price of a town house in 1637. This has been considered the first speculation or economic bubble and the mania for tulips soon crashed, ruining many financially.

Incidentally, other edible flowers include daylilies (fried blossoms), nasturtium (peppery tasting in salads), and violets (candied to decorate confections).

actually tulips are edible..it was found out during World War2 in germany when people are already starving.they boiled the crown of the tulip then cooked it..petals are also good in salad.,they just make sure that the crown is well-cooked because it can be poisonous.

Whew, realized that the delicious green thing I popped in my mouth earlier was a tulip stem. Good to know that I won't die.

But it was delic!

Have read books about the German occupation of Holland that said the dutch ate tulips to survive. I talked to someone who was there and said she never ate them.

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