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An Exquisitely Pretty Snack for Spring

One of the best things about being an adult: You’re allowed to play with your food. In spring, that means introducing edible ornamentation like tulip petals to everyday eats, transforming them from ordinarily good to effervescently appealing.

Celebrate what you have. Celebrate flowers. Celebrate the privilege of a meal, and of feeding yourself, or friends. Honor food. Do not forget what others have lost, and are losing, as we speak. Give them a voice through your own actions, but do not stop living. Put spring on a plate. Appreciate every petal.

Here’s an easy snack, and how I like to eat tulip petals in spring.

Photography by Marie Viljoen.

Above: Tender goat cheese atop firm tulip petals.

Some years ago, when I was preparing a spring picnic for an intimate, outdoor engagement party, I ran out of edible flowers (I was using violets, dead nettle, and crabapple blossom). But I needed one more snack. A vaseful of perfect tulips was on the kitchen counter. “Hmmm,” I thought, speculatively. I dove into the internet—and emerged from that rabbit hole to tear the cupped petals gently from their stems. That is how a new spring treat was born: Goats’ cheese and tulip petals, amenable to almost infinite variation.

Above: Tulips petals are best when the flower is open but not full-blown.

Above: ‘Golden Apeldoorn’ tulips growing in my previous garden.

Tulip petals are delicately firm and hold their shape well. Their flavor is mild, like a lightly floral lettuce, although some colors and cultivars can be more intense. For eating, your own, garden-grown tulips are ideal, because you know how they were cultivated, but growers like Moonshot Farm (who sell from their stand in New Jersey and at greenmarkets in New York City) offer bee-friendly blooms that are grown without synthetic pesticides and herbicides.

Above: Picnic-bound tulips and chèvre, with henbit and bittercress.

For picnicking, the tulip petals offer a gentle nest for smooth balls of goats’ cheese mixed with cream (the cream smooths that mildly chalky, goaty edge that fresh chèvre sometimes has). These petal rafts also steady the balls, which have a tendency to roll about, en route.

Above: Spring on a plate.

These treats are the easiest finger food, eaten just so, or schmeared onto a cracker or piece of bread. Another advantage of using fresh goat cheese is that fewer people have an intolerance towards it, if they are lactose-sensitive.

Above: Dusted with sumac, the snacks take on a different personality.

The variations are easy and effective: Finish these cheese bites with different spices. I use black pepper, sumac, Aleppo pepper and urfa biber, ramp leaf salt, or smoked salt flakes. And the hyper-seasonal toppings might be sourced no further than your lawn or windowbox: chickweed, bittercress, the tiny flowers of dead nettle, henbit, or ground ivy.

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