Dahlias are my latest perennial vege. Quite a while ago Haikai Tane, told me that dahlia’s were commonly eaten in China, at that time I was just moving to Auckland and had left all my dahlias in the ground at Tui. I have always loved them- easy and prolific great for bees and mulch so I was keen to know that they were edible too as I was already cultivating them as a potential food forest plant.
Well now I am back at Tui, I retrieved a bunch of tubers from our previous site and a few weekends ago planted them out, mainly to stabilize some banks and to get them in the ground multiplying again. I pulled out a big tuber (they look a lot like yacon), to have for dinner, quickly scanned online that other people had eaten them, somewhere in the world, they had, (but gosh people are precious about their flowers, I would think that anyone would be thrilled to discover something as easy as dahlias for food- rather than relying on the supermarket!).
Anyway we had them for dinner a stifry- very nice, like yacon but less sweet with a celery like taste- very Asian. The kids ate them too, knowing they were dahlias. In this stir fry we are also eating wilding leeks that I saved from the new Tui Garden site, they have been wilding there for years!
The tuber I used for dinner, I had pulled up 2 months ago and hadn’t planted just left in a barrow in a tub in the shed, I peeled it cause its skin was tough but inside it was still crisp like yacon! I imagine it would be also good in stews or soups.
Dahlia’s need to cooked well and eaten in moderate doses as they contain inulin which can give wind and digestive upsets, as do sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and yacon. I had no problems after our meal though. I wouldn’t eat them raw though as I notice some recipes advise but the inulin dissolves as they are cooked in water, (I made a sloppy tomatoey stirfry). I’m not sure I would boil or roast them, I think better for more creative and flavoursome cooking, and until you are used to the taste use them with other veges. Flower petals can be eaten too in salads. The variety’s I have that have been most successful are probably older variety’s that I got from our HANDS (local green currency) market, and my children’s grandma- I noticed that the ones I bought from the store weren’t nearly so hardy or prolific. I’d also eat the big well formed tubers and leave the small ones to grow bigger. You can eat the tubers after they have flowered. And in the Golden Bay climate the tubers can basically store in the ground until you want to eat them- just leave a few big ones to grow!
Dahlia tubers are easy, easy food, grow all summer with bee attractant blooms, then have tubers. In a couple of years they multiply heaps !! so you can spread them wherever.
I had been meaning to try them for ages and I’m so pleased they are yummy and useful… a great food forest plant, grow about a metre or less high… prolific.