At the beginning of December I turned our first dahlia tubers into dahlia pan haggerty, which turned out to be quite nice. Just before Christmas I was translating Mexican dahlia ‘yam’ recipes, as you do, looking for ways to use the rest of the harvest. Most of the ideas were fairly undramatic, involving boiling dahlia tubers for quite some time and then serving them in some sort of salad. A little further into my research I came across something a lot more intriguing – dahlia desserts.
I tried the recipe that looked most promising and seasonal – boiling dahlia yams in a spiced syrup. It made the whole house smell like Christmas! The end result was… delightful. I popped it in the fridge to cool down and pulled it out again to give Ryan a taste when he got home from work.
He loved it, but rather than serve it as it was, which is what the original recipe intended, he had a different idea – dahlia ice cream. Christmas intervened, and the syrup sat in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but then I found the time to pop it into the ice cream machine. We served the resulting sweet when Rhizowen came to visit. It seemed appropriate, given his obsession with unusual roots. And the verdict? Delicious, definitely one to make again!
So, down to details. The edible dahlia I selected for this recipe was Buga München from Lubera, a semi-cactus variety that is compact and good for growing in containers. According to the Lubera website, it lacks the fibrous nature of other varieties, being crisp with a sweet note – it sounded like the ideal candidate for a dessert recipe. Also, my harvested roots were rapidly growing white mould, so it seemed like a good idea to use them before they were inedible. I did try potting up the remaining crown of the plant to see whether it will survive. Watch this space… (it’s a while since I have been out to the shed to check on things).
Recipe for fragrant dahlia ice cream
In the end, I only had 67g of harvested roots, which I peeled and diced. I boiled them in half a litre of water for about 10 minutes, then added a cinnamon stick (5g), 5 whole star anise (5g), 2g of cloves and 200g golden caster sugar and let the dahlia yams simmer in this spiced, simple syrup for another 10 mins (lid on). Then I turned off the heat and let them cool down in the pan, before transferring them to the fridge.
What you get is a lovely, spiced syrup with some crisp dahlia chunks. This amount of syrup would have covered a much larger dahlia harvest if you wanted to serve the dahlias cooked in syrup – they make a reasonably nice poached ‘fruit’ dessert.
Instead, we fished out the spices, mixed the syrup into 1 litre of goat’s yoghurt and used the ice cream maker to turn it into a frozen dessert. It doesn’t come out of the ice cream maker frozen solid, so it gets portioned up and put into the freezer in plastic pots. Depending on the consistency of the mix, some frozen yoghurts are more solid than others. Some still need a machete to cut through them after 30 mins warming up time. This one, however, is quite civilized – you don’t need to plan too far ahead when you want to eat it!
What we ended up with was a white, sweet and fragrant ice cream with the occasional chunk of crisp dahlia. We loved it, and will definitely be making it again.
So… does Buga München make the grade for growing again this year? Well… it doesn’t have the most spectacular flowers, and its yield was low compared to the other varieties. Things aren’t looking good for poor old Buga München, but it does depend on how the other varieties stack up. So stay tuned for the next exciting installment of Dicing With Dahlias!
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.