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Food value or ornamental value?

When I'm busy using flower bulbs, it's mostly because I'm making my house or garden look more beautiful. At times like these, I often think back to when bulbs were not seen for their ornamental value but for their food value. Although onions make many dishes delicious, I don't think most bulbs would taste very good. But what about flower bulbs? Do they taste good, or do their flowers provide more pleasure? Time to find out more.

An emergency food source

There were times when bulbs were eaten because there was nothing else available to eat. You could call them a kind of emergency food source. In the Netherlands, this happened during the notorious famine known as the 'hunger winter' during the Second World War. During the last year of the war, it was impossible for the bulb farmers to plant their flower bulbs. For this reason, huge stocks of tulip bulbs were simply wasting away in storage facilities. People were so hungry that they could do little else than use them for food or face starvation. The bulbs didn't make for healthy eating - you could only eat up to three a day - but they contained calories and didn't take long to cook, which also saved on fuel. Because the bulbs had already spent some time in storage, they were dry and bitter - even nasty!

A delicacy

Or were they?? If I look further back in history, I make a surprising discovery. During Roman times, flower bulbs were considered a real delicacy. In particular, the Romans enjoyed the bulbs of the Tassel Hyacinth. Back then, these bulbs were apparently famous for their flavor. In the only remaining Roman cooking manuscript (the Apiciustext) is a recipe that uses the Tassel Hyacinth as the main ingredient. In those days, recipes didn't indicate quantities or the preparation method. It was all just a matter of guesswork!

Does this recipe make as much sense to you as it does to me? Manon Henzen experimented with this recipe and came up with a modern version:

 bulb afbeelding

You're not hungry; you feel like eating

Even today, Dutch children often get told by the older generation: 'You're not really hungry - you just want something to eat. During the war is when people were really hungry. And if you were hungry, you'd eat anything - even dried up tulip bulbs!' But the flavor of old bulbs during wartime is nothing compared to fresh, unsprayed bulbs that are even a little sweet. It may sound attractive, but still... I'd rather use tulips for their ornamental value - a beautiful bunch of tulips in a vase.

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