Dahlias are usually grown for their beautiful flowers. With such a variety of blooms, it is no wonder they are the gardeners favourite cut flower to grow. They can produce flowers within one season and their tubers swell and can be stored throughout winter to grow the following season. These tubers have always looked so plump so I wondered whether you could eat them.
Can you eat Dahlia tubers? The short answer is YES you can eat dahlia tubers. In fact, you can eat the entire plant. These fat tubers are produced by the plant throughout summer and can be stored much like potatoes. Their taste and size vary but can be treated the same as artichokes. They can be eaten raw, roasted, fried, mashed and even baked.
What does Dahlia taste like when eaten?
Dahlia tubers as mentioned have a varied taste and structure when eaten due to the vast varieties of Dahlia’s available. Some are crunchy like eating raw Oca and others are softer like yams. The great thing is that Dahlias can bring a salad to life or can even be roasted and added to the veg in a Sunday roast.
Their flavours dependent on variety could be similar to celery, apple, carrot or even swede. But they change when cooked becoming milder as the tuber is heated or baked. The Dahlia flowers make wonderful additions to brighten up any summer salad.
When were Dahlias first eaten?
Coming from Central America Dahlias were eaten by natives and were a staple food in Mexico. They were introduced into Europe in 1788 as staple tuber supplying food crops for communities. However, this didn’t take off as much as their breeders would have liked. They declined as a food source after the corn took a strong foothold in supporting the country. Surprisingly they were even considered to be a coffee substitute much like Yakon so if you fancy a cup of decaf, why not try dahlia tea.
How to prepare Dahlia Tubers for eating?
Dahlia tubers lend themselves to being treated very much like sweet potato or Jerusalem artichokes. Being baked, boiled and mashed or even roasted they make a wonderful addition alongside other root vegetables on the table
Simply clean and peel like potatoes and cook as required. They are very easy to prepare. Larger Dahlia tubers could also be eaten exactly like a jacket potato. So, this tuber is very varied.
Is it safe to eat Dahlia tubers that have been grown in the garden?
This is a much bigger question. A lot of factors would determine whether something is safe to eat or not. I don’t say this because of the plant, but because of growing practices.
If you are using strong chemicals to grow the flowers of the Dahlia, you may find that these could be passed on to the tubers. But if you are growing organically and not pouring growth hormones onto the plants then they are totally safe to eat.
What varieties of Dahlia are edible?
Before I give you a list below, I want to add all varieties of Dahlia are edible. However, the following species are known for flavour, texture and tuber size.
Dahlia’s best for salads
There are thousands of Dahlia species, but this is the list I have tried and enjoyed eating. Why not grow some dahlias yourself and give them a go?
How to store Dahlia tubers ready to eat?
Once you have lifted your Dahlias after growing, you need to cut off the stalk around 6 inches above the tubers and turn them upside-down to dry out and cure. This prevents the tubers from rotting. Once dried you can remove all spindly roots with scissors and then wash the tubers in clean water.
Be careful to avoid breaking the skins when doing this or this will leave a damaged area where disease can set in when in storage. There are three methods to now store these tubers until it becomes time to eat them.
- Store upside down on a shelf
- Store in dry compost
- Store in damp sand
Store upside down on a shelf
Tubers do well when stored this way. By keeping them on a shelf they are easy to check periodically for rot and disease. They should be stored in a dark frost-free cool room; this will prevent them from shooting or chitin. Check tubers for signs of shrinkage and spray with water if these signs are found.
Store In dry compost
Tubers can be stored in dry compost in creates or boxes. Plastic containers should be avoided as the tubers need to breathe. Again, a dark cool frost-free place is required. A garage is an ideal place to store them. You should check these also for signs of rot and disease. Spraying if they start to shrink.
Store in Damp Sand
This is one of the easiest methods. Store in boxes as above but use damp sand as the medium. This will keep the tubers humid and will prevent them from dehydrating. You also need to check them far less for disease and rot. Store in a dark cool frost-free room.
How to grow Dahlia’s to eat
Growing Dahlias to eat is much like growing them for flowers. But where you would just plant one tuber for flowers, we need to increase our stocks in order to bulk out our tubers to give a bigger yield. We can do that by taking cuttings. Instead of just planting the tuber in the ground and waiting for the flower to come, we can half bury the tuber in a pot or tray.
Place this on heat and provide artificial lights and eventually, you will see green shoots appear. Cut these off with a craft knife when they are around 6” cutting as close to the tuber as possible. Dip these into a rooting hormone and place into a pot containing a 50/50 mix of compost and grit.
Within a few weeks, these will have rooted and can be grown on until the last frost has passed. Once the danger of the last frost has gone you can plant out the cuttings. Continue to take cuttings from the parent tuber until you have the desired amount.
Then plant the original tuber too. By the end of summer, you will have many plants and tubers in order to harvest instead of just one. This keeps costs down low as Dahlia tubers can by $5 or $6 dollars or £4 to buy each.
Watering Dahlias that you intend to eat.
Watering Dahlias is important, these grow huge plants fast and it is not until the height of summer do the tubers put on weight. The more water available at this time the better as the tuber will swell much easier when it is available. Be mindful not to saturate the soil so the tubers are not sat in water as this can cause the tubers to rot.
When should I start to take Dahlia cutting when growing to eat?
You should start this process in February and continue to take cuttings right up until the end of April. At this point, the mother tuber should be planted properly into a pot and allowed to grow in preparation to be planted out.
When do I harvest my Dahlia tubers to eat?
You can harvest your tubers from the end of September to the middle of November. Avoid frost at all costs. Tubers should be lifted to allow time to harden off and cure as described above before the first frosts are due.
Can I leave my Dahlia tubers in the ground all winter?
This would depend on where you live. In colder climates, it is not advisable to leave them in the ground. If frost gets to the tubers it will kill the plants. Even with a good layer of mulch, this can be hard to control reliably for most gardeners. It is much better practice to lift the tubers as described.
Can I feed leftovers to my cats and dogs?
No, Dahlias are one of those plants that are poisonous to your pets. If you have leftovers, you are much better to compost or bin these. DO NOT feed dahlias to your pets. If your animals do eat this plant, then it will cause mild gastrointestinal cramps and can even cause dermatitis.
I hope that this has answered your question as to whether you can eat Dahlia tubers or not. If you got value from this content, then please consider signing up to my blog so you can be notified each time I release new content like this. You can do that in the right-hand sidebar next to this post. Remember folks you Reap What You Sow!