Ever Eat a Maple Blossom?

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Big leaf maple flower
Bigleaf Maple blossoms: edible works of art

Maple Blossoms Fried, Frittered and Served

When I was a kid, Euell Gibbons was a household name. Known by many as the Father of Modern Wild Foods, Mr. Gibbons rocketed to prominence after becoming a spokesman for Grape Nuts cereal. His most memorable line, “Have you ever eaten a pine tree?” stuck with me for years. And after chewing on a loblolly pine switch long enough to know it was best left on the tree and not in my mouth, I wondered if Mr. Gibbons was not also a wily prankster getting every kid in America to chew on some backyard conifer.

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Fresh-picked florets

One of the grand dames of my homestead is a Big Leaf Maple. She towers and arches and shades; blooms, leafs out, and drops her verdant shield when the chill returns. Each spring a rush of chartreuse florets unfold into an impressive show on a century-old tree. And over the years, I’ve had folks say, “You know Tom, those flowers are edible.” And I think, “Yes, and so are Lima Beans, but I never want to see them on my plate.”

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Mini maple blossom bouquets: Almost too pretty to eat.

This year curiosity got the best of me, and I rounded up my clippers and headed out the front door to the biggest blooming pollen producer on any green acre: my Bigleaf Maple. I snipped off the young flowers, and avoided the florets that had been out a while and contained a cottony center. I tried a recipe inspired by one of Seattle’s favorite chefs, Jerry Traunfeld, and featured on a wonderful blog called Fat of the Land.

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The Bigleaf Maple Blossoms bathed in batter.

Recipe: Maple Blossom Fritters

Batter:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • enough ice cold water for mixture to resemble pancake batter

Instructions

  1. Whisk ingredients thoroughly to remove lumps.
  2. Add 2-3 cups of rinsed bigleaf maple flowers.
  3. Stir lightly, coat flowers with batter
  4. Remove flowers and add to hot pan holding one to two inches of vegetable oil
  5. Fry until golden brown on each side, don’t crowd, and drain on absorbent paper
  6. Remove from heat, and sprinkle salt if you want them savory, or powdered sugar if you want them sweet like a beignet.
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A fritter for your thoughts?

Fried Maple Flowers: My Review

As much as I wanted to love the crispy little packets of deep-fried goodness, I found myself underwhelmed. These green goddess gifts from the maple are best left on the tree in my humble opinion. As vehicles for a deep-fried battered shell, they’re four-star, but on the flavor front the florets are more about adding texture than taste, in my mind. Much like zucchini, maple blossoms are easily over-powered by other flavors and cooking techniques. Think zucchini tempura; tasty but not much flavor. So rest assured my honeybees, the maple blossoms are all yours.

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Like little green tulips all in a row

I’m glad that I tried my little culinary experiment. Ever eat a maple flower? Why yes, yes I have, and I look forward to my return to kale, chard, arugula and scallions. Stay tuned; I’ll share another recipe for batter fried vegetables that will have you hook on eating your greens, gladly.

 

13 COMMENTS

  1. Ooooh, Tom. What attractive blossoms they are! Not a fan of zucchini flowers either, regardless of stuffing used. There now, I’m out of the closet. Must look up Euell Gibbons, he sounds like my kinda chap. I hope that the hounds are enjoying the change in seasons.

    • Jacqui, Boz and Gracie are tanning themselves on the front porch, while I extract honey. Life is good, though it is tax day, and I’m dragging my feet. Take care! Tom

    • Sandra, the nettles are just laying in wait to sting me. I have to weigh my options; just how much do I live nettle soup, and just how much stinging would I care to endure. No matter what I do or wear, the little brats sting me somehow.

    • Dandelions fritters, okay I’m game. Now, just to pick a patch where Boz and Gracie are not regular visitors. Thanks for the tip, Michelle!

    • Eileen, I just harvested some honey, so it may just be mead that I try to make. First thing is to wipe down the kitchen, things are sticky after extracting it from the comb.

  2. Interesting to read your opinion of maple flower-eating. I tried them years ago, lightly sautéed in butter and folded into scrambled eggs, on the advice of the teacher of my herbal wildcrafting class. I thought they were pretty good. The gist of our wild food eating adventures that year was the useful knowledge that there are several kinds of wild foods: 1) taste great and are good for you; 2) taste blah and are good for you (these are the only kinds you really consider for eating) but there are also foods that 3) taste terrible but are good for you, not to mention 4) taste good, bad or indifferent but will make you sick and the final category 5) foods that it doesn’t matter how they taste, don’t even think about eating them because even a tiny bit will kill you — these are rare but obviously, worth knowing about! 1-3 useful in a pinch (i.e. if starving out in the woods).

    A friend of mine in Alaska makes a very tasty pesto from nettles — she calls it ‘nesto.’

    I am looking forward to seeing what else you decide to munch on…..

  3. I wonder how they might taste Raw sprinkled on a salad? Their flavor may be more prevalent… I would have to try them that way to know how/if to cook at all

  4. Had these in a salad two weeks ago. The buds are growing out, and not so compact now, and I’m wondering if they’re just as good when they’re a little further along.

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