What's Cooking: Tulip bulbs

That the Dutch are fond of their tulips is known worldwide. Thousands of tourists come over each spring to see the immense tulip fields in the western part of the country. However, what is far less known is that the Dutch even used to eat them. Yes, you got that right; there was a time when the Dutch actually ate their tulip bulbs. Not because they tasted so great, but simply because there was nothing else to eat.

The period in which this happened was the winter of 1944/1945 known to the Dutch as "Hongerwinter" (winter of hunger). While the southern part of the Netherlands had been freed by allied troops, the North remained occupied by the Germans. In September 1944, Queen Wilhelmina, living in exile at the time, urged the Dutch Railway personnel to go on strike, so as to sabotage the Germans in supplying their troops. The railway personnel obeyed her with disastrous results.

Soon the Germans arranged for their own trains and punished the Dutch by cutting off the Northwest from all food transports for six weeks. This reprisal unfortunately coincided with three other facts that made the situation even worse. First, it was an extremely harsh winter, which exacerbated the need for fuel to keep warm, especially the old an ill. Second, the desperately  needed coal could not be transported from the mines in the South to the North because of the front line that cut the country in two along the major rivers. Third,  from many fields that had become a battle zone no crops had been harvested, leaving very meager local food supplies. Not surprisingly, a big famine was the result and in that winter, around 20,000 Dutch died of hunger.

The people that did survive that awful winter did so in part by eating what was still available: tulip bulbs. The government even published recipes to cook a nutritious meal with them. This is one of them:

Tulip bulb "meat" balls

Warning! Do not by any means try to cook this. Current tulip bulb variants are not eatable and contain high concentrations of insecticides!

1 cup of brown beans.
1 cup of tulip bulbs.
Onions (if available).
Curry-surrogate (if available).
Salt to taste (if available).
Marjoram to taste (if available).


  1. Cook the beans and bulbs until done.
  2. Let them cool and mix them together until you get a smooth paste.
  3. Fry the onion with the curry surrogate and add to the paste.
  4. Add salt and marjoram to taste.
  5. Form little balls of the paste and bake them in as little oil as possible.