In The Victoria Era The Language of Flowers was used to subtly tell people what was on your mind. Lilies represented “Majesty” which makes perfect sense to me when I am admiring my day lilies that return each year with prolific blossoms and bountiful beauty.
Day lilies are also edible. I had the life changing experience in my early 20s to work with two wise herbalists in an herb shop in Branford, Connecticut called Bittersweet Farm Herb Gardens. These women taught me about herb lore and craft and how to properly dry herbs for use in potpourri. I learned how to grow and care for all types of herbs and edible flowers and how to make both edible and fragrant products from the herbs we grew in our traditional English herb garden. Day lilies were part of this education.
Day lilies have many edible parts including the buds, flowers, tubers and stalks. I am most fond of the flowers as they are only available for one day and then they drop away. The flowers are mostly used for their bright color and they can thicken soups and sauces in the same way okra does. The stalks remind me of wheat grass and they are high in vitamin C and fiber. The buds which are plentiful on many varieties are delicious when prepared in a simple butter saute or if you’d like a healthier version try toasted sesame oil. The butter allows for more of the natural flavor to come through so for this plant I break my own zero to very little dairy rule and go for butter. And last but certainly not least are the tubers. In New England we have an abundance of wild growing Tiger Lilies. Freshly dug the tubers are very tasty when added to butter for a simple saute. The whiter tubers are sweetest and remind me of early sweet potatoes.
I caution everyone to approach eating wild plants and flowers with care. For some there may be allergic reactions to introducing unfamiliar foods. Try a little and see how it goes before digging up the whole bank of day lilies you find in your backyard.
For more information on edible plants try one of the following reference books:
The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America by Francois Couplan
Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide by Thomas Sam Elias
AND because I grew up in Northern California
The Encyclopedia of Useful and Edible Plants of California by Charlotte Bringle Clark.
Good eating and please remember to stop and kiss a lily they only show their pretty faces for one day!