Cooking with wild edibles

Please Do Eat the Daylilies

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Both the buds and the blossoms of daylilies are edible, a fact I regrettably learned only after I had dug out numerous flowering clusters encroaching on my lawn. But now I get a kick out of astonishing friends when I casually pluck a daylily "bean" from their backyard patch, and take a bite. Next thing you know, they're inviting me to gather a handful, which I'm happy to add to my next stir-fry. And they're happy to know that when the vivid flowers bloom, they will make a sweet-spicy bonus in the kitchen.

Daylilies are a common garden plant that have "gone wild." They're found throughout most parts of the United States from late spring through summer, often near sunny fields, roadsides and empty lots.   

Buds are distinguished from the plant's non-edible fruits by their layered interiors. Choose smallish buds that are just beginning to open and cook them as you would beans: boil and serve them with butter or add chilled, tender-cooked buds to salads. Or, if you happen upon a spicy batch (they're typically mild-flavored, like beans or zucchini), stir-fry them with Asian flavors.

Daylily buds will keep in the refrigerator for several days, but the delicate flowers (trumpet-shaped blooms that grow in multiples on a leafless stalk) should be consumed the same day they are picked; they are very short-lived. You can add the petals to egg dishes, soups and salads, or dip whole flowers in batter and deep-fry them, as you would squash blossoms.

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If youíre planning a hunt...

..check with the appropriate authority before setting out. Foraging restrictions vary on public lands, and on private property you must get the ownerís permission. Reference a reputable field guide book, preferably one thatís specific to your region, or apprentice with an experienced hunter. Never eat a wild plant you canít positively identify. And please, donít get greedy: pick only a portion of what you find, to allow the plants to replenish themselves for next year.

In case you can't find enough in the wild or at the market, we've provided substitute ingredients for each recipe.

When you get home, take care to thoroughly clean your cache. Tender greens, especially, should be rinsed well under or in cold water and often require several washings. Dry them in cotton or paper towels and keep them chilled in plastic bags. This will help prevent loss of moisture and vitamins, but not for long--most wild greens decline after a couple of days.

If youíre new to a particular wild edible, make your first serving a small one. As with any food, allergic reactions are rare, but possible.

Finally, whether you gather, grow or purchase the wild foods of spring, get them now, for all too soon, theyíll be gone.

 

Cook this!

plants of the season

nettles
sorrel
ramps
asparagus
dandelion
daylily

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