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.
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.”
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.
Recipe: Maple Blossom Fritters
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- enough ice cold water for mixture to resemble pancake batter
- Whisk ingredients thoroughly to remove lumps.
- Add 2-3 cups of rinsed bigleaf maple flowers.
- Stir lightly, coat flowers with batter
- Remove flowers and add to hot pan holding one to two inches of vegetable oil
- Fry until golden brown on each side, don’t crowd, and drain on absorbent paper
- Remove from heat, and sprinkle salt if you want them savory, or powdered sugar if you want them sweet like a beignet.
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.
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.