Did you know you can eat flowers? Ok, not all kinds of flowers, but yucca flowers make for a delicious dish! Does that sound too exotic? If you´re wondering how to cook a flower, keep reading!
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Yucca flowers are not exclusively Mexican. They are found all over Central America, and in fact, they are the national flower of El Salvador. Salvadoran cuisine is full of yucca flower dishes, and some of those are also served in Mexico. As you can see, good cuisine needs no passport or immigration visa to jump across borders.
In Mexico, yucca flowers are mostly eaten in Veracruz province. Veracruz is the most beautiful place ever, with warm, cozy Gulf Coast beaches on the east, and high, misty mountains on the west. Oh, Veracruz! I should clarify that I have deep roots there since half of my extended family lives in that little piece of paradise. In fact, the pictures in this post were taken and kindly shared by my cousins, aunt, and uncle at their organic coffee farm in the Veracruz highlands. FYI, their coffee is one of the best in Mexico and possibly in the world. Read more about their farm here.
Besides coffee, my cousins know a thing or two about yucca flowers. These beauties bloom in spring, from April to May, and you have to cut them while the blooms have not yet fully opened, or otherwise they will have a bitter taste, so they say. The only problem is that there’s only a single yucca flower branch growing high atop each tree, so cutting it down is not easy. In any case, it should be done by someone with experience, or you’ll just end up damaging the entire plant. Also, you might fall and break a couple of bones. Just don’t try it!
Now that you have a big bunch of yucca flowers, you´re all set to start cooking! First, you have to clean them and pull out the pistils- the little long thingies sticking out of the flower center. That’s going to take a while! When you’re done, just boil the flowers with salt for about 10 or 15 minutes and they’re done.
Now, you have to decide what you’re going to do with all those flower petals. There are many recipes, but I can only tell you about three- yucca flowers and eggs, yucca flowers in chileatole or yucca flower tamales.
Yucca flowers and eggs
This one is easy. Just chop up some onions, tomatoes, and maybe a little jalapeno. Saute the veggies and some flower petals in a little oil or butter for a few minutes and then add the eggs. That’s it! You’ve got yourself a nice, yummy breakfast.
Yucca flowers stew
This one is called chileatole and it takes a little longer to make, but it’s amazing. First, throw some pork in a pot to cook. In another pot, cook some ancho chilies, some chipotle chilies, tomatoes, onion chunks and garlic cloves. Once the chili peppers and their sidekicks are cooked, blend them all together. Then, fry this sauce mixture until it turns a deeper color. Add the flower petals, the meat, and a little bit of the broth, and let cook for a few minutes in the sauce. That’s all! Just make sure you have plenty of tortillas handy because you might have to put out a chili pepper fire!
There’s also another recipe called tezmole. For that one, you need serrano chilies and chicken instead of pork, but you make it pretty much the same way. You know, cook the sauce ingredients, blend them, fry the mixture and then throw the cooked meat and the flowers in it. Yes, you also need to be ready to put out a fire with this one.
Yucca flowers tamales
Making tamales is something worthy of a whole other post or two, but the procedure is always the same. You have to make the tamal dough mix with corn flour, lard, and broth. You also have make the filling, which in this case would be cooked yucca flowers and meat stewed in chili pepper sauce.
Since we are talking about Veracruz-style tamales, you need banana leaves to wrap them. Then, you stick them in a steamer pot and let them cook. There’s nothing as wonderful like the sight of a pot of tamales!
I’m thinking the yucca flower tamales or chileatole would go well with some rice, beans, and fried plantains on the side. That’s a real Veracruz-style dinner right there!
I know what you all are going to ask me- what do yucca flowers taste like? Well, they give off a distinctive, fragrant smell when they are cooking. In a dish, they have a very mild, bitter flavor that lingers in the back of your taste buds even after the chili pepper meat mix. Their flavor does not dominate the dish, but it adds a special aftertaste, like slightly bitter herbs. If you think that sounds exotic, you are not alone. Not many people have the fortune of tasting yucca flowers, even in Mexico.
Writing this has made me miss Veracruz so much, I need to go there soon. Veracruz, I will see you before the year is over!
For more yucca flower tips and recipes, check out this post.
What do you think? Would you like to try a yucca flower dish? Leave a comment!
Photo credits: Emilio Licona at La Herradura Cafetal Sustentable