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.
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
Hope you’ve had your first bowl of stinging nettle soup. Now there’s a tasty harbinger of spring.
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.
What about dandelion fritters? Add a bit of curry to your batter & seek revenge on the weeds by eating them! Great spring treat… 😉
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!
I am waiting for your next experiment in the kitchen!
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.
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…..
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
Kelly, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, the trees are in full bloom now. Give it a try and report back if you like! Cheers, Tom
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.
H Rebecca, I’m not too fond of the texture once the blossoms open and get longer. Tougher then, too.
[…] The blossoms can be eaten raw on salads, as a lovely side garnish or topping on soup or dessert. Big Leaf Maple Fritters usher in a new spring season and celebrate hope as the dreary days of a northwest winter wane. […]
I picked some today and fried with my fish, I pick them more closed before. They blossom or have blossomed, they are sweeter, crunchier, and taste between cauliflower and broccoli but have a crunch like fresh broccoli..I added, lemon pepper and sweet paprika..a pinch of salt and friend in butter , you can add some sweet red pepper I will say it’s very yummy..try it while you can the blooming buds will Change your palet if you try it..give it a chance..
Thanks Sherry, I will try them more opened up as you suggest. I’ll pick some in a few days when that happens.
More closed Tom..😄More closed, did I say it wrong..haha..when they are budding ..hmm but not full in flower..I found them bitter in its flower form, but I also picked my by a river..I heard different stories about what flavours you can get depending lon the water content…in black berries, the more water makes the sweeter..berry, that’s my experience, drier soil..was more tart….and I will say the fish dish totally complimented the buds..maybe that was the difference, I like your way too..if it’s wild, I will try almost anything..the more natural the better..you too I bet!
I just got some maple blossoms for the first time and I have been eating them raw in sandwiches with vegan pepper jack and other ingredients; and sautéed with mushrooms, garlic, sesame oil, asparagus and tofu over rice noodles; and dipped in avocado, tamari and nutritional yeast — and well-rinsed, raw. I LOVE them! They are like a milder-tasting broccolini top and their form, as you mention, is perfect for soaking up a tasty sauce to deliver a succulent mouthful of flavor carried on their delicate blossoms and wings. They are my new favorite veggie! The bees will have to share.
Shanta, these are great tips and uses for these lovelies. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and enthusiasm for these floral jewels. And for the record, the bees said, you can have any blossoms you can reach, they’ll visit the rest. 😉