Are tulip bulbs edible?

7 of the most expensive flowers in the world

It was the rare ghost orchid that held the fascination of flora fanatic John Laroche, whose story of plant poaching and subsequent arrest were the topic of Susan Orlean’s famous book, “The Orchid Thief.” While Laroche may be one of the better known contemporary plant collectors, the practice dates back to at least the 15th century BC, when Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut sent botanists to Somalia to bring back some incense trees. The fascination with plants and flowers has persisted throughout time, reaching a fever pitch in the early 1630s when tulip mania gripped the Netherlands, resulting in the crazed speculative buying of rare tulip bulbs. It was the first futures market in history, and like those that followed, it suffered a dramatic crash.

By the 1700s, formal flower production became established in the Netherlands with the development of greenhouses, and we’ve been lavishing our homes with potted flowers and posey-filled vases ever since. While roses and lilies may fill most florists’ buckets, there’s a whole world of exotic flowers out there that might bring out the orchid thief in many a flower enthusiast.

The gloriosa lily, aka “fire lily”

To enjoy these beauties, you’ll have to dig deep

Economists often point to the tulip mania that gripped 17th-centruy Holland as a cautionary tale of investments and bubbles. It’s also a perfect illustration of how beauty, rarity, and fragility came together to determine a flower’s worth.

The same is true in today’s flower market. Just as they did in 1637, these three concepts are helping steer the prices of the world’s most expensive flowers.

Lisianthus: $10 -$35 per bunch

Available in a variety of colors from pale purple to lavender to white, this New World native can be found in the southern United States, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern areas of South America. Single forms resemble tulips; doubles look like roses. Once cut, the flowers only survive two to three weeks.

Lily of the Valley: $15 – $50 per bunch

For many northern gardeners, it’s inconceivable that lily of the valley is on the list. The sweetly fragrant, small bell-shaped blooms are prolific bloomers and a nostalgic reminder of gardens gone by. Giving them value, though, is a very small blooming window (about two weeks in May), fragile stems, and flowers that droop easily.

Hydrangea: $6.50 per stem

Like lily of the valley, hydrangeas are another surprising entry on the list – and can often be more expensive than roses. They seem to grow everywhere, and their full flowerheads a great way to fill out a bouquet. The issue, though, is that once they’re cut, those flowerheads wilt and droop – and no longer look so full.

Gloriosa Lily: $6 – $10 per stem

The gloriosa lily goes by many names: flame lily, fire lily, and glory lily, to name a few. With petals that resemble bursts of flame, this climbing plant also has a Latin name: Gloriosa superba “Rothschildiana” – as in Rothschild.

Semper Augustus Tulip: $5,700 (in 17th-Century Holland)

The Semper Augustus tulip is no ordinary tulip. It’s the most expensive tulip sold during Holland’s Tulip Fever in the 17th century. As breeders developed cultivars, some tulip flowers developed colored markings. When a white tulip with red markings appeared on the trading network, tulip collectors fell into a frenzied bidding war. What they didn’t know then is the random mutation was caused by a virus that, in time, weakened the bulb.

Saffron Crocus: $1,200 – $1,500 per pound

In 1966, when Donovan sang the lyric “I’m just wild about saffron” in his hit song “Mellow Yellow,” he could easily have been singing about the spice. The real treat of this purple flower is the stamen, which is handpicked, dried, and ground into saffron, a spice that is enjoyed by chefs and cultures around the world. It takes 80,000 flowers to make just one pound of spice.

Gold of Kinabalu Orchid: $5,000

With long green petals and red spots, this is one of the rarest orchids in the world. It can only be found in the Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia, where it grows between April and May. It can take years for flowers to appear.

Shenzhen Nongke Orchid: $200,000

This flower is the result of researchers at the Shenzhen Nongke group and took 8 years to grow. Because of its time in development, as well as taking four to five years to blossom and a delicate flavor, the bloom sold at auction for 1.68 million Yuan.

Juliet Rose: $15.8 million

There are standard roses and there are garden roses, and the Juliet rose falls in the latter category. While standard roses can be harvested continually, garden roses are more delicate and may only bloom once a season. That and the fact that it took for 15 years for David Austin to develop the flower helped push the Juliet rose to second place.

Kadupul Flower: Priceless

There simply isn’t a way to place a dollar amount on this rarest flower of them all. This flowering cactus blooms once a year – and when it does, it opens at night and withers away by daybreak. In fact, the flower is so fragile that it cannot be picked and so it cannot be bought or sold.

Flowers that won’t break the bank

At HOSA International, we believe all people should be able to enjoy flowers. That’s why we develop and grow flowers that are beautiful, fresh, and affordable. For more information about HOSA International, our flowers, our policies, and what we can do for you, or to place a wholesale order, call us at 305.470.9991 or complete our online form.

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Common bulbs that are edible

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Bulbs became an important source of food for our ancestors because they remain stable or fresh underground year around. This was a very efficient form of preservation. Let’s examine a few edible bulbs.

Eating lilies in Asia is quite common; species such as Lilium brownii, L. pumilum and L.dauricum often are eaten. Lily bulbs were part of the Chinese emperors’ recorded diet by 200 BCE. Not only are the bulbs edible, but the flower pod are as well, either raw or cooked. Native Americans in many parts of California favored tiger lily Lilium paradalinum; the bulb typically was harvested in the fall, then cooked in earth ovens. The bulbs habitat was improved immensely by prescribed burns, which the Native Americans utilized as an agricultural management system. Of course lilies are wildly popular as ornamentals and are best known in this country for their garden attributes.

How could we not recognize the incredible onion, Allium cepa? Believed to have been used by the Chinese 5,000 years ago, who considered the onion to be sacred medicine.

Although no fossilized remains ever have been found, it is presumed harvesting of onions by hominids predates any concept of farming, perhaps even writing.

The Egyptians revered the onion and looked upon its concentric circles (storage leaves) as being symbolic of the circle of life. Egyptian nobility were buried with onions, which also were used in the mummification process.

Closer to home in the Pacific Northwest, many beautiful flowering bulbs were essential sources for food and medicine for our indigenous peoples. Certainly camas, which can be found growing from California to Vancouver, Canada, and further inland is the most prominent. Dried camas root (bulb) was a necessity as part of any trade between Native Americans.

Camas bulbs do not last long when fresh so drying or baking in earth ovens was typical. The bulbs were cooked for 24 to 36 hours, which allowed the insulin to change to fructose, resulting in a much sweeter and palatable dish. Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest did not have access to sugar. Molasses and honey came along with the settlers. Camas was an essential ingredient with which to sweeten dishes.

Al Shay is a consulting horticulturist and instructor at OSU. Contact [email protected]

If You Can’t Beat ’em, Eat ’em

Although often mistaken for an American wildflower, day lilies came from East Asia via England, escaping Colonial gardens early in their American life, and naturalizing here, growing in tall, bullying clumps that precluded more timorous native species. Day lily is the common name for the multitudinous genus Hemerocallis, which comprises over a dozen species and tens of thousands of cultivars, gaining new ones every season. Darlings of the horticultural trade, they occur in almost every hue (except blue, but breeders are trying) and grow from coast to coast—and across Manhattan, in parks, courtyards and even on rooftops. All of them are edible.

And so much is edible in our urban landscape: lovely local ephemerals such as violets, the delicate flowers aptly named “spring beauties,” subtle trout lilies, as well as the slow-growing woodland carpets of wild ginger. But it is a hard and greedy heart that unearths clumps of these indigenous plants from a park: Wildflowers are under enough pressure within the city without having to fend off foragers, too. Personally, I would thump such an adventurer over the head with my handbag, in which I often carry several heavy lenses for my camera.

The over-competitive day lily is bad news for local species and delicious news for foragers. When sorting out my constant internal conversation about what I will and won’t pick, this distinction factors high.

Sustainable foraging focuses on a world I have come to love: invasive weeds. These are aggressive, successful and sometimes delectable plants that have arrived from another clime and made themselves very much at home, to the detriment of local plant populations. I am here to help. I will eat the weeds—as should you. Together, as gardeners, foragers and cooks we can turn away from weed control with poison and turn toward our chopping boards.

Because day lilies belong to the botanical family Liliaceae, they are sometimes confused with the genus Lilium—which can get very unpleasant, as many of those plants have poisonous parts. To confuse things further, day lilies are sometimes known as tiger lilies. But that is also an accepted common name of Lilium lancifolium, an Asian lily with poisonous raw buds, poisonous spotted flowers (also orange) and poisonous leaves. Its bulbs, however, are edible when cooked. Know thy lily! And learn thy Latin.

The closed day lily buds are perfect raw in salads—crunchy, yielding, slightly sweet. Steamed, they are a delicate, green beanish treat needing little more than a suggestion of melted butter and a nip of salt. Gently pickled in vinegar, they pair well with sweet spices such as allspice or cloves. Dried and rehydrated, the viscous buds are the golden needles of hot and sour soup. You can buy them in Chinatown, sometimes labeled helpfully as “dried lily buds.”

And while I have nothing against the flavor of fancy Hemerocallis hybrids, these are usually planted by parks employees or homeowners, so I steer clear. Sneaking a bud from a cultivated plant is uncouth. So in June, when day lilies dot the landscape, I take the A train up to Inwood Hill Park, where the plant has taken over, uninvited. Here I gather my buds, guilt-free. It’s a long ride from Brooklyn, but worth the wait.

The spent flower, however, is fair game, no matter where you find it: Just-withered blooms make a very good cooked vegetable. The Chinese and Japanese have known this for eons. And if you are dexterous, these delicate, fragile day-old petals can be persuaded to accommodate a simple stuffing, à la zucchini blossom. Bread crumbs, ricotta, a speckling of lemon zest, a panful of foaming sweet butter …

But that’s not all: The best part of this generous plant is arguably its small, fleshy rhizomes underground, though now is not the time to gather them. They are fatter and crunchier in very early spring when their green shoots have just broken the surface (and are consequently harder to identify). Map your day lily stash this summer, and return next March, with a little shovel. I’ll be here to tell you what to do with them…

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily, Lilium lancifolium

The word “lily” causes more confusion than four letters ought to be able to make. There are true lilies, usually not edible, some of them quite toxic, a few edible. And there are plants people call lilies which aren’t lilies at all, some quite toxic and some edible. The next layer of confusion comes from the fact many people call many different plants the same name, in this particular case, the Tiger Lily.

The Tiger Lily we’re interested in for the moment is Lilium lancifolium, a native of Asia and Japan but naturalized in the northeast quadrant of North America, and a few other places as well. Most of this Tiger Lily is edible by humans but all parts are toxic to cats. It causes feline kidney failure. In Asia and Japan this lily is grown for its edible bulb. Cooked it resembles turnips in flavor. Flower buds are eaten raw or cooked.

Note bulbils where leaves meet stem

This particular species does not produce seeds. Instead it produces little black bulbs (bulbils) where the leaves meet the stem. You can use those to propagate the lily or the tubers. However, by bulbil it takes three years for them to mature.

Now we get to the pseudo-controversy. All over the Internet there are dire warnings that the pollen of Lilium lancifolium (aka Lilium tigrinum) is toxic, that is, it will make humans throw up and generally be miserable. Oddly, none of the books in my library, except for one, mentions the pollen at all. Save for that one entry none of my foraging books mention pollen nor do any of my flower books mention it. In fact none of my books on poison mention Lilium lancifolium pollen regarding humans. The one reference I have to the pollen is found on page 512 of the Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America by Dr. Françoís Couplan. In reference to Lilium lancifolium and Lilium bulbiferum he writes:

“The pollen can be gathered in relatively important amounts and eaten as such or sprinkled over various dishes. It is nutritious and has a pleasant taste.” The Internet seems to be in disagreement with Dr. Couplan, who has a PhD in ethnobotany. His encyclopedia was published in 1998.

Cornucopia II, which is a compendium of edible plants in the world, also published in 1998, says on page 144 of the Lilium lancifolium: “Flowers both fresh and dried eaten in soups, salads…” No mention of or warning about avoiding the pollen on fresh flowers. It would seem the Internet is at odds with Cornucopia II as well.

The Internet is rife with misstatements. The pollen-is-bad-for-humans warning could have risen out of the real threat it poses to cats. They lick lily pollen off their fur and often die from it. That warning could have morphed from fatal for cats to toxic for humans. There are previous examples with other plants.

Cow in methane capture experiment

Many sites in the last five years have published the warning that pine needle tea can cause abortions in humans, another leap from a known threat animals to certain problem for humans. It started with an article in the Journal of Animal Science (J ANIM SCI 1992, 70:1604-1608.) In the article cows in or after their eighth month of pregnancy which ate several pounds of Ponderosa pine needles did indeed have abortions, the rate ranging from 5 to 8%. Non-pregnant cows were not affected. The article did not cause much alarm as the Internet was in its informational infancy in 1992. However, the United States Department of Agriculture issued a report on the Internet in 2006 — still on line — saying “Ponderosa pine grows in all of the states west of the Great Plains and in western Canada. Pine needles can be made available to cattle from slash remaining after logging operations, windfalls, or dried fallen needles. Discarded Christmas trees have been known to cause abortions in cows. Lodgepole pine (P. contorta), common juniper (Juniperus communis), and Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) also contain isocupressic acid and may also cause abortions when eaten by cattle.”

One blog that same year mentioned the cow problem then made the leap by saying Native Americans knew long ago what modern scientists had only recently learned about pines needles and abortions. The blog added the element of Indian woman using pine needles for abortions — no reference given. Included in the blog was one additional comment about pines from the ancient Greeks and the warning was born. From there it proliferated over the Internet. Now pine needles cause abortions in humans, each reference becoming obligatory and more dire. Can you intentionally prepare pine needles to somehow affect a pregnancy in humans? Perhaps, though there seems to be no examples in the medical literature. Then again, too much of anything can probably affect a pregnancy, wine comes to mind. Intentionally preparing an intense dose of pine needles is far different than two pine needles sitting in hot water making a pleasant tea with Vitamin C.

In another example other sites have being saying the aril of the Momordia charantia is toxic to kids. It’s nearly 100% lycopene, not exactly a toxic substance. If it is toxic to children then maybe watermelon is, too. Professor Julia Morton, an expert on edible and toxic plants in Florida, wrote extensively about the species many times and never made mention of anything related specifically to children. I can remember finding the original site that said the arils were toxic to kids. Again, no reference was given. Last year I met a breast-feeding mom who ate them and kept right on feeding.

Lilium canadense

So, is the pollen of the Lilium lancifolium, toxic to humans? The books say nothing bad about it, Dr. Couplan says it tastes good and can be collected in quantity, the Internet says it is toxic to humans. Can we find a way that toxic view could have been proliferated? Yes, the plant is toxic to cats. It is a short leap for amateur writers to include humans. I wrote to Dr. Couplan for his opinion on this. He wrote back saying he has consumed Lilium lancifolium pollen in small amounts with no known bad effects. Dr. Couplan asked for a reference on the purported toxicology of Lilium lancifolium on humans. I could not and cannot provide one because I can’t find one, published that is. As best I can tell it is Internet rumor and one reason why I prefer published references.

Among the native lilies of North America the cooked bulbs of the follow species can be eaten by humans: Lilium canadense, (now rare in some places) Lilium columbianum, Lilium occidentale, Lilium pardalinum, Lilium parvum, Lilum philadelphicum and Lilium superbum. Yes. Superbum (soo-PER-bum) It means superb. Another edible Asian lily is Lilium bulbiferum.

Lilium is dead Latin for the Greek word Lirion, which means lily. Now days they’re called Krinos — meaning lily — which is also a brand of imported Greek food. That said, lilies get around. A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Palace of Knossos near Heraklion, Crete. In the museum is the famous “lily” vase, a fresco that dates back 3,500 years. A similar fresco in the same time frame is found on the Greek island of Thera, though it is better known as Santorini. The working theory is the volcanic eruption that essentially destroyed Santorini created a tidal way that wiped out the Minoans at Heraklion a few hundred miles away. The Minoan civilization never recovered from that disaster. The frescos did.

Lastly, don’t you think it is odd that the plant is called the Tiger Lily not the Jaguar Lily? Jaguar are orange and have spots, orange tigers have stripes. Maybe the Tigris river had something to do with it.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

Lilium lancifolium bulbs

IDENTIFICATION: Bulbs widely ovoid, large scales. Stems minutely woolly, purplish, buds usually flat-sided, somewhat triangular in cross section. Leaves scattered, horizontal and drooping at tips; dark purple axillary bulbils; leaves lanceolate, often narrowly so, edges not wavy. Flowers hang down, not fragrant; Turk’s-cap-shaped; sepals and petals curve back, orange with many purple-brown spots; stamens stick out, ends purplish,

TIME OF YEAR: Late summer

ENVIRONMENT: Near damp places in urban areas, roadsides, railroad banks, buildings.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Bulbs boiled, pickled, or used to make starch. Resemble parsnip in flavor. Flowers both fresh and dried used in soups, salads, omelets and rice dishes.

All Over Albany

Tulips really are edible… sort of

posted May 9, 2008

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 they’re poisonous. Others say 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.

tags: food, Tulip Fest

Tulips

Tulip field in Holland

Tulips: Famine Food, Appetizer Assistant

Many years ago a social acquaintance upon learning I ate weeds said she and her mother had eaten tulip bulbs. If I remember correctly they had dug them up and weren’t going to plant them again so they decided to eat them. She said they boiled them and ate them like onions. She reported the tulips bulbs were good… until they had to go to the hospital.

Tulip Semper Augustus.

That’s one of the problems with tulips. You read they are edible but then you meet someone who ate them and ended up in the hospital. Death from tulip bulb consumption (via a glycoside) is rare but it has happened, particularly in World War II.

A few years after my acquaintance’s comment I was interviewing a businessman who had an import store. At one point he mentioned he was from Holland. Without thinking I asked him quite innocently if he ever ate tulip bulbs. His countenance change and I knew I had crossed some line and the interview as essentially over. He said yes, as a boy, he was forced to eat tulips bulbs to survive War War II. As out of place as my question might have been, he did not mention getting ill.

Let’s see if we can clear up the issue of edibility. This is from the book “The Hunger Winter: Occupied Holland, 1944-1945” by Henrie A. van der Zee, pages 149-150.

“Another ‘delicacy’ the Dutch devoured was tulip bulbs. At the beginning of the war doctors had pronounced the bulbs fit for human consumption, but withdrew this in 1942. In the winter of 1944-45 they were rediscovered, and the Office for Food Supply again published some booklets to tell the Dutch how to handle the bulbs. ‘They contain a lot of starch’

Remove the yellow core before cooking

they told us, ‘and when cooked their consistency will be slightly mealy.’ It was impossible to say how many bulbs were needed for the recipes that followed, but we were advised to peel them, cut them in half and remove the bitter little yellow core. Almost everybody tried it out and nobody liked them, but the Dutch saying ‘Hunger sweetens even raw beans’ was now more true than ever, and Dr. Mees discovered that the bulbs were ‘not too bad’ when boiled like potatoes… Rather better was tulip soup, the authorities had advised. ‘Take one litre of water, 1 onion, 4-6 tulip bulbs, some seasoning and salt… one teaspoon of oil and some curry-substitute. Cut up the onion and brown together with the oil and the curry. Add water and seasoning and bring to the boil, while grating the cleaned bulbs into the boiling liquid. Add salt to taste.’ It had virtually no nutritional value, but it filled the stomach. One had to be careful not to eat too many tulip bulbs as they could cause indigestion… Dahlia bulbs were also tried, but they never became as ‘popular’ as the tulip bulbs. One tulip grower later told an English journalist that he alone had sold 2500 tons of bulbs — ‘crocuses for coffee, daffodils and hyacinths for fodder, and tulips for the humans.’”

Here’s another personal account, this time from Father Leo Zonneveld, who was a boy during the occupation and whose father grew tulips.

Father Leo

Father Leo Zonneveld as a boy

“Trading was very important because there was nothing in the stores to buy, only empty shelves. Money had no value. Of course, there was the black market, but you didn’t dare do anything in public. Father would trade a lot in the beginning, especially with the dairy farmers; however, the last year of the war, there was nothing left to trade. That last part of the war was called the “Hunger Winter.” 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. 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 center, 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. Sugar beets were usually thrown to the hogs, but that winter we ate them, too. We still shared tulip bulbs and sugar beets with those with hand-drawn carts who continued to go from door to door. I think seeing my mother still give to the hungry at this time, even though we had very little, made me want to be a missionary: To help people, especially in China or the Philippines who were a lot worse off than we were.”

Tulips fields from the air

From these two personal accounts you know two things. Tulip bulbs are a famine food, and they must be prepared correctly, that is the centers must be removed. Fortunately tulip petals are more edible. The petals can be eaten raw or cooked but loose much of their color when cooked. They can have many flavors: Bland, beans, peas, and cucumbers. Pink, peach and white blossoms are the sweetest, red and yellow the most flavorful. While you can use them to garnish salads their more common use is to hold appetizers or dip. If you use the entire blossom cut off the pistil and stamens from the center of the blossom. The ends of the petals can also be bitter so cut them off as well when used individually.

There is one other word of caution. Some people are quite allergic to tulips and they also cause a common dermatitis problem among florists called “tulip fingers.”

Botanically most tulips are varieties of Tulipa gesneriana, named for Conrad von Gessner, 16th century naturalist and father of bibliography. Tulipa is pronounced TOO-lee-pah and means turban. Gesneriana is said jes-ner-ee-AY-nuh. Incidentally not all species of Tulipa need to be cooked. The Bedouins ate T. amblyophylla raw. And tulips also show up in heraldry now and then, most noticeably in the coat of arms of Raphael. There a bay horse holds tulips in its mouth.

IDENTIFICATION: A perennial that grown from a bulb. Can be from four to 28 inches high, usually one flower per stem. The flower has three petals and three sepals which are often darker at the base. They are produced in several colors except blue. They have six distinct stamens. Seed capsules have disc-shaped seeds in two rose per chamber. The stem has few leaves. What leaves there are are strap shaped, waxy, and alternate around the stem

TIME OF YEAR: Usually spring.

ENVIRONMENT: Well-drained soil, temperate climates with long, cool springs and early summers.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Blossoms raw or cooked. Bulbs cooked AFTER removal of outer skin and inner flower bud. Eating too many tulip bulbs can cause indigestion.

Tulip (Tulipa gesnerian)

Tulips are a member of the onion family and both the flowers and the underground bulbs are edible. During World War II, a terrible famine struck the Dutch countryside and the people of Holland actually ate the tulip bulbs rather than planting them as they had done for centuries. An older Dutch friend of mine vividly recalled her mother cooking tulip bulbs because potatoes were not to be had.

Today the tulip flower is often used as a kind of shell for sweets and for stuffing with cheese, vegetables, salads or meats. Tulips have a bean-like flavor which enhances crab salads or shrimp salads made with mayonnaise, and the pink-flowered tulips actually taste a bit sweet! Try this at your next fancy luncheon and don’t forget to tell your guests they can eat the petals as well as the fillings!

Preparing Tulip Flowers

Choose unsprayed flowers not yet fully opened. With your fingertips or small scissors, remove the fuzzy stamens and pistils inside and leave the base and the petals. Fill the resulting “shell” with any type of salad for a colorful first course.

Are Tulips Poisonous to Chickens?

Well, the short answer is, yes. Tulips are poisonous to chickens, as well as to most other animals, including people. Generally, this isn’t a problem, though. There are a few reasons why it shouldn’t worry you too much to have all the tulips, daffodils, and other flowering plants you want, even when they aren’t necessarily friendly to chickens.

Why Tulips Are “Safe” Poisonous Plants

While tulips and some other flowers contain chemicals called glycosides that can be toxic to a wide variety of animals
when they are consumed. Instead of wondering “Are tulips poisonous to chickens?” it makes more sense to ask a few otherquestions:

  • Are my chickens likely to eat them? Does it look like the kind of thing they eat?
  • Am I likely to tease the chicken with the plant or to otherwise make it seem OK to eat?
  • Are any of my other animals prone to eating plants that look like that?

These three questions not only tell you that tulips are not at high-risk for chicken grazing, they also provide a guide you can use when deciding whether other potentially toxic plants are going to cause a problem.

Chickens Forage

Chickens are naturally foraging animals, which means they have the instincts to check out new plants by taste-testing very small amounts before deciding whether or not to eat more. They are pretty good at figuring things out for themselves, too. Even if there is a little nibbling here and there, it is highly unlikely that a chicken will decide to eat enough tulip to cause serious problems.

Human behavior does have a large impact on animal behavior, though. If you give your chickens food, they tend not to question it, and that plays a role in the other foods and plants they will deem safe. If you feed your chickens anything that looks like tulips, then it might be a good idea to steer clear of having tulips in your yard. Otherwise, are tulips poisonous to chickens? Yes, but it isn’t a big problem.

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