Edible dahlia tubers

Posted: Monday 21 January 2013
by Adam Pasco

Dahlias always been a favourite in my garden, but for their flowers rather than tubers, which are apparently edible.

Pink dahlia flowers

I've eaten a few strange vegetables over the years, but have never tried dahlias. They've always been a favourite in my garden, but for their flowers rather than tubers, which are apparently edible.

I remember watching Geoffrey Smith visit Mexico in his series 'Mr Smith's World of Flowers' in the early 80's, where he discovered the giant Dahlia imperialis growing in the wild, its flowers towering above his head. However, I don't recall any mention of them being edible, but he must have mentioned that they'd been grown by the Aztecs.

James Wong introduced me to the idea of edible dahlias when I met him last summer. James will be familiar to many through his BBC television series 'Grow Your Own Drugs', and his latest book features dozens of unusual plants that turn out to be edible.

James told me that the Aztecs enjoyed their sweet, starchy tubers, so plant hunters first brought them back to Europe in the late 1700's as a food crop. However, these weren't to everyone's taste, and once different species were introduced and bred their bright, exotic flowers proved far more appealing than their flavour.
Dahlia tubers continue to be a popular food in Southern Mexico today. An internet trawl revealed that many, if not all, dahlias have edible tubers, although their texture and flavour varies widely. (Some varieties may be unpalatable, so do check the variety you grow before sampling.)

I'll certainly try growing some edible dahlias this year. Edible dahlias varieties are sown and grown just like any dahlia bedding plant, and I can enjoy their flowers in my borders throughout the summer.

At the end of the season in October/November, when I'd normally lift and store dahlia tubers for the following year, some will make their way into my kitchen. And then it's decision time – to fry, bake or mash?

Does anyone have a good dahlia recipe to share?

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Talkback: Edible dahlia tubers
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flowering rose 22/01/2013 at 14:46

no,but I would like you to try it first,sounds interesting.

sotongeoff 22/01/2013 at 14:48

Tried them once-absolutely horrible-do not bother

Adam Pasco 22/01/2013 at 21:01

How were your dahlias cooked, sotongeoff? I wonder if some varieties taste better than others, or whether the way they're cooked makes a difference?

sotongeoff 22/01/2013 at 21:04

This was years ago-they were roasted as I recall-tasted of well -nothing

Thinking back they were the cactus ones grown from seed -the flowers were not up to much either -hence the experiment

Berghill 23/01/2013 at 10:42

Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants

Root - cooked and used as a vegetable]. A bitter flavour A sweet extract of the tuber, called 'dacopa', is used as a beverage or as a flavouring. It is mixed with hot or cold water and sprinkled on ice cream. Its naturally sweet mellow taste is said to combine the characteristics of coffee, tea and chocolate]. The root is rich in the starch inulin. Whilst not absorbed by the body, this starch can be converted into fructose, a sweetening substance suitable for diabetics to use

Info from http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Dahlia+pinnata

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