Eating Daylilies


My morning runs are getting slightly less comfortable due to the rising summer temperatures.  I now sweat profusely. Something I do not really miss about Florida.  The flower colors seem to get bolder as the temperature gets warmer. It is almost as if the flowers are trying to intimidate the sun with equal radiance. I now jog by deep pink raspberry blossoms, red poppies, and orange daylilies instead of the yellows and pastels of the spring flowers.

I have my eye on the daylily. It’s a big edible flower! Truthfully, most of the plant can be eaten.

Daylilies fall into the Hemerocallidaceae family (genus Hemerocallis) an enormous and diverse family- that provides an especially amazing variety of wild food. The name Hemerocallis (Hemera meaning day and kallos meaning beauty) of  is a great name for a plant group whose brilliant blossoms last only one day.

The parent order includes “true lilies” and more domesticated edibles such as leeks, onions, garlic, chives, and shallots.  “True lilies” are genus Lilium, and are grown from bulbs instead of tuberous rootstock.

There are hundreds of modern varieties of dayliles. I collect the easily identifiable and sometimes invasive roadside variety,  the Common Tawny Daylily which has orange blooms. Tawny Daylilies are an older variety and have their oldest known uses in Eastern Asia.  This variety probably came to American Gardens and roads with the English in the 17th century but is so common it is often called a native wildflower.

But what do they taste like you wonder?  Fresh flowers and buds have a sweet flavor with no bitter aftertaste like many edible flowers. Pleasant but non-nondescript, the flavor of daylilies can be compared to a range of mild-flavored vegetables from lettuce to zucchini. Think light, watery and crisp.

The flowers have a short life span but the roots can be eaten all year.  When harvesting the firm tubers from the soil, replant strong roots and the plant will settle back in. Collect the young shoots in the spring, preparing as you would asparagus.

(In general, if you are eating ‘young shoots’ of anything a quick saute of butter, garlic, and lemon juice is always tasty.)

Eat the flowers and buds in the summer. Choose large buds and fresh blossoms for salads or stuffing. The smaller buds can

be pickled or blanched like beans.

At the end of the day, show no remorse and harvest the open flowers. They will only bloom one day anyhow.

String any uneaten blossoms together with needle and thread and hanging to dry. Use as a seasoning or add to soups and stews.

To store dried petals, loosely pack in an airtight jar. Many people believe the flavor gets stronger once dried..  Dried petals can also be found commercially in Asian food stores under the name ‘golden needle’ for use in things like Hot and Sour Soup.

Simply Stuffed Lily

An elegant seasonal appetizer. Plan on 2-3 buds per person.

Wash and trim a dozen dayliles. To wash, gently immerse flower in a bowl of water. Trim or pull the stamen and allow to dry on a towel.

Filling:

  • 1/2 cream, whipped to stiff peaks.
  • 2T greek yogurt
  • pinch sugar
  • 1t chopped fresh dill
  • 1t minced green onion
  • 1/4t white pepper
  • coarse sea salt to taste

Combine the yogurt and seasonings, blend well.  Fold the whipped cream into the yogurt.

Scoop the cream into a piping bag and refrigerate while cleaning the lilies.

Clean the lilies by trimming long stems and clipping out the pistil. Submerge  them into a bowl of water to rinse.

Gently gild the lily by spooning or piping the filling into the throat of the flower.  To hold these for serving, place on a plate or tray lined with a towel. The blossom will close slightly, tucking in the filling. Serve lilies the same day you collect the flowers and within a couple of hours of stuffing.

Present the gilded lilies with fruit on a bed of baby greens or  as a passed appetizer served in shot glasses.

As with all wild foods, be certain of what you are harvesting and eating. Consume small amounts at first to be sure that you agree with each other.

2 responses to “Eating Daylilies

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