Ever Eat a Maple Blossom?{13}

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.