It’s been a gonzo year for the orange daylilies. The hot, sunny weather brought hundreds of blooms to my daylily stand. Species daylilies are one of the easiest perennial plants to grow, are great for cut flowers, but did you know you can also eat them? Don’t try to do this with the the modern hybrids. While there are many gorgeous hybrid daylilies, the species orange ones are said to be the tastiest. The tubers, which are part of their root system (and also help them get through the drought we’ve been having) can be cooked, as well as the early shoots, flower buds and flowers. Some think that daylilies are poisonous, but that is usually due to mixing up the common name, daylily, with actual true lilies, which are not edible.
The species, or common orange daylily’s real Latin name is hemerocallis fulva. Hemerocallis means “beautiful for a day”, or hēmera “day” and kalos “beautiful.” Fulva means tawny (in colour). While each flower stays open for only a day, they still work well as cut flowers. As each flower scape has many flower buds, just remove the finished bloom, and the others will flower in turn.
Young daylily shoots, which are the first, tender leaf tips that come up in spring are said to taste like onion-y string beans by foraging expert Steve Brill. He suggests this cooking method : It’s too late now, but remember this one for next year!
Chop and use the young shoots raw in salads or sandwiches, or steam, sauté or stir-fry them. Add them to soups, stews or casseroles. Virtually any cooking method works with them, and their tasty, string bean/onion flavor always shines through, no matter what other ingredients or spices accompany them. They cook in 10 to 15 minutes. Use shoots under 8 inches tall.
Tubers can be dug without harming the plant. Dig some up, cut off some of the tubers, which look a little like fingerling potatoes, and then cover up the roots again. Here’s a recipe for daylily fritters, which uses the flower buds in a light batter. It’s best to pick buds which are still green-looking. Here’s a recipe for pan-seared daylily buds. This author/cook calls them poor man’s asparagus.
The only downside to the fulva daylily is its tendency to spread wildly. The newer hybrids stay in easy-to-manage circular clumps. But if you have space for daylilies to roam, and don’t mind if they roam far, go ahead and plant. Otherwise, I’ve seen clumps of daylily planted in enclosed areas like hell strips that stop the daylily from getting out of hand.