Edible and floriferous dahlias

What did you do with your dahlias this year? Did you enjoy them flowering in your garden? Did you bring some inside as cut flowers? Did you carefully dig up the tubers and and settle them into trays of peat-free compost in the shed to overwinter? I did all of those things, but I also ate some with a nice chianti* ๐Ÿ™‚

As I said when I dug them up, the dahlias have been the stars of the garden this year. Well-fed in one of my new raised beds, their flowered their stems off, even after Hurricane Barney knocked them onto their knees. They were unruly and unstoppable, and we’d happily grow them again just on that basis. But they were grown to eat, so we thought we’d give that a go.

Edible dahlia 'Sunset'

This was the root crown of Lubera’s DeliDahlia Hapet Sunset variety (henceforth known as ‘Sunset’) when I dug it up. Most of it is now snugly sitting in a tray of compost, but there were two loose tubers, so we ate those first.

'Sunset' Dahlia tubers

They weighed 108g. A quick nibble of them raw gives a fibrous, crunchy, vegetable flavour – it’s not very strong, but it’s more root vegetable than potato. I thought I would combine them with other things, so that – in the event they weren’t very nice – we would still have some dinner! And so I decided to make a simple and rustic dish from the north of England, Pan Haggerty, with a slight dahlia deviance from the recipe. Pan Haggerty is one of those things that is made in different ways by different people, but the basic idea involves potatoes, onions, bacon and cheese.

Recipe for Dahlia Pan Haggerty

Lubera acknowledge that ‘Sunset’ is the most fibrous of their edible varieties, and needs a little more cooking than the others. So I peeled and sliced my tubers, and combined them with 370g of sliced potatoes. We boiled them for 10 mins or so, until the potatoes were tender. Tested at this point the tubers still had some crunch, and still tasted like an unidentifiable root vegetable – perhaps with a hint of something like celery.

In the meantime, we’d been frying sliced onion and garlic until soft, then adding in some lardons. Pan Haggerty is a layered dish, so we attempted that in two small enamel dishes (which means Ryan can have cheddar and I can have goat’s cheese):

Pan haggerty - pre-cheese

I added a splash of milk in the bottom of each dish, to generate some steam. Then it was simply a case of piling on some grated cheese:

Pan haggerty ready for baking

If, at this point, you used a soft-rinded brie-like cheese rather than a grated hard cheese, you’d have something more like tartiflette, and could pretend your meal is an alpine aprรจs-ski indulgence!

Half an hour in a moderate oven (180 C for our fan oven) and you’ve got nice bubbly and browning cheese and a tasty dinner on your hands.

Dahlia pan haggerty, ready to eat

We both happily tucked in and cleaned our plates. The final verdict on the ‘Sunset’ tubers was that they retained their crunch and their slightly enigmatic root vegetable flavour. They’re OK, but cooked this way they were nothing special. We thought perhaps their crunchiness would shine in a stir-fry (although they would still need parboiling, I imagine) or they could add a savoury root note to soups and casseroles.

Dahlia 'Sunset'

‘Sunset’ is one of three varieties that Lubera recommend for container growing, so it’s ideal for people with small/ patio gardens – all that flower power and a vegetable crop at the end? You can’t really ask for more than that!

I’m planning on short-listing our favourite varieties to grow again next year. Whether ‘Sunset’ makes the cut remains to be seen. Stayed tuned for more exciting episodes of Dicing with Dahlias!

*According to the bottle it was actually a Shiraz Caberet. Ryan chooses the wine ๐Ÿ™‚