01 April 2015

Orange tulip petal salad

As I began putting together this post last weekend it occurred to me that it might be fun to save it for April Fool's Day...the so-called "orange" tulips have certainly ignited the kind of lighthearted play that you might encounter on the first of April. To begin with, you may have noticed that the tulips throughout this post are not orange, as suggested by the title, but actually red.

When I brought them home from the plant market, however, the emergent flowers were distinctly orange. Over the next few days, though, as the tulips blossomed into a tumbling mass, the bright orange deepened to a rich red. But by the time we got some sun and I finally had a chance to photograph them, the petals were shamelessly falling from the stems. Even though my photographic plans to capture the vase of tulips didn't turn out how I'd hoped, I couldn't resist having a little fun with what remained of them.

Which is how the tulip petal "salad" shown in the first photo came about. The blouse-y petals were so luxurious and colorful that I couldn't resist framing them in our big yellow bowl——and then "serving" them up on a plate (which is how I presented them to my daughter as a joke one lunchtime).

But it turns out the joke is on me. I got to thinking...maybe tulip petals are actually edible? And, indeed, I discovered some very interesting notes on the history of tulip edibility at Eat the Weeds... And this article from The Guardian offers enough detail aimed at the modern cook that I might consider including a tulip petal salad on the menu some day.


Another good thing about the disintegration of the tulips was that it inspired me to examine the individual parts that make up a tulip. And my subsequent researching & experimenting led to a bit of a biology refresher... Some of you may remember that the anther + filament = the stamen (male reproductive organ)...and that the female equivalent, called the carpel, is composed of a stigma that's supported by a style, which also allows the pollen passage to the ovary. A few of these words still sound familiar to me, but the full "equations" have certainly become fuzzy since the last time I studied biology.

I also found some new ways of considering tulips, like the carpel bouquet below, which emerged once the petals had fallen... While at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the vase of full-blown tulips, I was equally drawn to the simplicity of what was left behind. And I discovered that one stem bore a combination leaf-petal (seen in the glass measuring container, below, as well as in the story strips toward the end of the post).


While studying the gorgeous, deeply purple stamens I was inspired to see what happened when I immersed a few in a scant amount of water: it didn't take long for the liquid to turn a lovely shade of violet (which reminded me of a purple-tinged indigo somehow). By the following day, instead of growing more intense, both the "ink" and the anthers/filaments themselves had lost much of their pigment, and the resulting wash was essentially a pale gray. This is one "experiment" I would like to repeat properly now that I know the color undergoes such an evolution...

Progression of "ink" color as it faded...

A few drops of water that fell on my sketch journal mixed with the stamen "dust"

You may be able to make out some of the stamens at the base of these petals

A few bits & pieces collected in glass tea light holders


It has been a while since I created some story strips, so I tried a double-page spread of stems & carpels (+ the combo leaf-petal), with the fuzzy yellow stigmas as punctuation. Unfortunately I've had to wait yet a few more days in order to photograph them with help from the sun, so the stems are on the verge of shriveling. The stamens would have also made a useful "component," but they are now beyond salvageable. Another future experiment perhaps...


To finish, here's one more shot of the tulip petal salad that brought me so much delight and led me on this playful path...

Happy April to everyone!


  1. I have been away from your lovely blog for too long - family visits and commitments have kept me very busy. This is a fascinating post. I particularly enjoyed the rich colour contrasts between the rich red tulip petals and the gentle 'ink' produced from their stamens ... lovely!

    1. Thank you for visiting again, Margaret - I know full well how easily time can pass without being able to luxuriously visit other blogs! And yes, the contrast between the petals & "ink" is pretty amazing - I just love examining the qualities of the different parts of things... Thanks for sharing the joys of this with me!
      - Lisa


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