The Incredibly Tasty Tulip: Chèvre Cheese Balls

I’m not sure about you but Vancouver Island is awash in tulips! From pale yellows, crimson reds, pumpkin oranges, deep purples, lustred pinks and snow-white, their luminous colours are stunning. The most unsung of tulips many spring charms, however, is her edibility. With flavours and textures as diverse as her colours, her blooms offer not only a visual feast but many possibilities for a culinary one as well. Imagine a sweetish tasting lettuce that can be (depending on variety) fruity, floral or spicy with a texture ranging from buttery soft to crisp.  All are suitable for sweet and savoury dishes from salads to desserts.

 Last year I made these Tulip Cheese Balls for Gather Victoria Patrons and while they look pretty dramatic they were very simple to make. I just minced a few petals into goat cheese (with a little bit of crow garlic chives and spicy wall rocket) shaped it into a ball which I rolled again in the minced petals. It was delicious!  Very tasty and festive!

With more than 3,000 naturally occurring and genetically cultivated varieties of the flower worldwide – you have plenty of tulips to choose from. But there is one proviso. It’s best to stay away from any just purchased from plant or grocery stores as they are likely saturated with insecticides and pesticides. (I use the ones that have been growing in my garden and flower boxes now for nearly a decade!)  Also stay away from the leaves and stems, not for eating, but if you want to try a tulip bulb go straight ahead.  Here is a Tulip Bulb Soup recipe that was popular in Holland during WWII. 

The tulips in my window boxes are incredibly animated. Always moving and changing shape in response to the sun, tulips are heliotropic and photonastic because they twist, arc or move throughout the day to orient themselves in the best position to receive light.  Photonastic means they open and close their flowers according to changing light conditions.  

I usually wait until the blooms are almost ready to go, i.e. they’ve been through a few cycles and are beginning to wilt. ( I can bear to pick the flowers in full vivid life!).  If I want some real crunch in a salad I will take an outer leaf from each of the flowers. Use single bloom tulips with a sweet spiciness and good crunch. While the frilly double blooms are spectacular, many are scentless and flavourless, so the traditional single bloom is best recommended for eating. 

Plantswoman Lucy Bellamy has written the definitive guide in the Guardian,  so I’ll just sum a few of her tips. The best tulips must be scented( fragrance is flavour) and single, early tulips tend to be the most fragrant. Additionally, they should have some bite and texture “crunching noisily when eaten”. 

She recommends orange tulips as the most scented such as ‘Veronique Samson’ a flaming orange single with a rose scent.‘ Couleur Cardinal’ is an intense crimson-red single with a plummy sheen and has a fruity, sweet aroma.  Lily flowered ‘Ballerina’ smells heady and sweet like sherbet and ‘Orange Favourite’ are double, smells of freesias. ‘City of Vancouver’, a late single, has large, creamy petals that taste of violets.

“Larger petals have a stiffer texture and more crunch. ‘Menton’ is a single early with crisp petals and flowers the size of a goose egg that provide an exhilarating snap. The shell pink colour belies a strong spicy kick similar to mizuna or rocket. It has a pleasing brittleness similar to iceberg lettuce.”

“Double peony and parrot types are chewier and so can be used coarsely chopped or torn. Intensely velvety ‘Rococo’ is scarlet-flamed, puckered with bright red and deeply fringed. It has a subtle, fruity fragrance. Use it to make a sultry salad with lamb’s lettuce, red cabbage and chicory or roast peppers, squash and pecorino. ‘Creme Upstar’ is a pale and creamy double peony type. It looks and tastes fantastic with the mixed bright green leaves of oakleaf lettuce, newly emergent sorrel, mint and feta.”

So,  that should give you just a few ideas on how to use tulip! These are just some of her suggestions, so I really do advise you to check out her article to find more tips. You can find more recipes online that show you how to use tulip petals in salads and for salad dressing, and little dishes for appetizers. I even saw one recipe where yellow petals are filled with chocolate mousse! Think I’m going to try that one. Here is a recipe for tulip wine. 

Along with Tulip Cheese Balls for the Gather E-Cookery Book, I also made an excellent Tulip Cream Cheese Spread, adding in some minced wall-rocket.  Crunchy spicy and HOT, wall-rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) is a species of flowering plant in the mustard family. It’s also known as wild arugula and tastes just like it. It’s a common weed, growing across Europe and North America usually in sunny warm areas, spreading across grassy areas and meadows. Its blossoms (like all mustards) feature 4 petals.

I minced its leaves and stalks along with crow garlic and a couple of tulip blossoms into cream cheese. This I slathered on crisp celery sticks for a Netflix snack – because I’ve been trying to cut back on the chocolate! I love its crunchy texture and garlicky peppery bite. I’ll share the recipes for both the Goat Cheese Balls and Cream Cheese Dip, but if you don’t have the exact ingredients – improvise. You really can’t go wrong with tulip! 

Tulips in a Vase: Hans Bollongier (1600-1675)

And last but not least, I have to mention the tulips’ long association with love and love magic. Originally a wildflower in the mountainous ranges of central Asia, tulips were first cultivated during the Ottoman Empire about 1,000 AD. The Turks considered the tulip the symbol of perfect love used them in love potions and as a charm against evil.  In Rome, the tulip was a bloom of Flora Goddess of Flowers and of Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty. 

It was the Turkish Sultans who introduced the tulip to European explorers and traders. The Netherlands literally went mad for this flower. During “Tulip Mania” in medieval Holland, the tulip was more expensive than houses and the buying, selling and speculation led to the first economic “crash” in history. Ironically, the Dutch prized the tulip’s power to bring good luck, fortune, and of course – love.

Their association with love continued right up into the Victorian era. In the“Secret Language of Flowers”, red tulips represent true love, yellow hopeless love, and a black flower meant a heart burning with love.  Tulip is a member of the lily family, and of course lily’s have been sacred to humans since the Stone age as the “goddess flower.” But that’s a whole other post! On to the recipes! 

Chèvre Cheese Balls w/Tulip Petals

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of softened goat cheese

2 tablespoons of minced crow garlic greens or chives (reserve a little for garnish)

2 tablespoons of minced wood sorrel, or sheep or garden sorrel (reserve a little for garnish)

2 tablespoons of minced tulip petals (reserve a little for garnish)

Salt & Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Place softened cheese in a large bowl and add your pre-minced ingredients. Using a large wooden spoon (or your hands) work the petals and greens thoroughly into the cheese. Add your salt/pepper and taste. Once everything is well blended, roll into a ball or a log if you prefer. Garnish with petals and greens.

Creamy & Crunchy & Spicy Tulip Spread

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of cream cheese (pre-whipped makes it easier)

2 tablespoons of minced crow garlic greens or chives (reserve a little for garnish)

2 tablespoons of minced wall-rocket or arugula (reserve a little for garnish)

2 tablespoons of minced tulip petals (reserve a little for garnish)

5-6 washed and prepped celery sticks

Salt & Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Place cream cheese in a large bowl and add your pre-minced ingredients. Using a large wooden spoon work the petals and greens thoroughly into the cheese. Add your salt/pepper and taste. Once everything is well blended, transfer to a serving dish. Slather on celery sticks. Garnish with petals and greens.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support Gather Victoria on Patreon!

Posted by

Whether its through wildcrafting, plant medicine, kitchen witchery or seasonal celebrations, I believe we can enhance personal, community and planetary well-being by connecting with mother nature!

13 thoughts on “The Incredibly Tasty Tulip: Chèvre Cheese Balls

  1. You have given me a new appreciation for tulips! Never were one of my favorites though the early blast of color is always welcome. The recipes and pictures are so beautiful, I might just have to plant some tulips for next spring so I can make some beautiful things. Thanks again for the wisdom and inspiration you consistently put out!

  2. I have eaten a lot of flowers over the years but up until today I never realized tulips were fit for human consumption! I guess that is why the deer like them too! Thanks for this inspirational post!

Leave a Reply