It may sound strange, but every Dutchman knows the story: during the war, people ate tulip bulbs. The only reason for this was hunger. The Netherlands suffered a great famine in the winter of 1944-1945. Eating tulip bulbs is not something our ancestors did for fun, they did it because there was nothing else to eat.
Many Dutchmen of certain age remember the famine and the tulip bulbs they ate. In our theme park Land van Fluwel, we have a lot of customers that share their memories with us. They sometimes still find it difficult to see tulip bulbs again, although they know that we use them only for flowers, not for food. Hunger is a deep emotion that is not easily forgotten.
Eating tulip bulbs in WW2
The Dutch famine was the result of the lost Battle of Arnhem (1944), when allied forces failed to liberate the northern provinces of the country. The northern provinces became isolated from the liberated parts of Europe. Food stocks ran out, as did fuel stocks. Then a harsh winter began. Thousands of Dutch citizens starved or froze to death.
Due to the war situation, tulip growers have not planted tulip bulbs that year; great amounts of tulip bulbs were stocked on farms throughout the country. During the famine authorities decided to use these stocks as food for the starving populations. The old, dry tulip bulbs were sold in grocery stores and newspapers published recipes with tulips. The tulip bulbs were nutritious and relatively easy to cook, so that less fluel was needed.
The taste of tulip bulbs
The tulip bulbs that people ate in the Second World War cannot be compared with modern day, fresh tulip bulbs. The war bulbs were old and dry and did not taste like fresh tulips. A fresh tulip bulb has a sweet, milky flavour that is actually not very bad. The tulip bulbs that were eaten during the war had a very bitter and dry taste instead.
Eating tulip bulbs is not as bad as it sounds like, as long as you eat fresh tulips thate were not sprayed. Unfortunately, such bulbs were not available during the last winter of WW2. It is important that this sad history is not forgotten. Dutch children are still raised with the words: you are not hungry, you only have appetite (Je hebt geen honger, je hebt trek). Real hunger makes you eat everything you can get, even old, dry tulip bulbs, as they were eaten during the Dutch famine.