Every summer, tons of organic vegetables wave merrily at us from our gardens, then wilt in the dark and fall uneaten to the ground. Yes, it's the tragedy of uneaten daylilies, perhaps even more of a waste than the uneaten pumpkins at Halloween and Thanksgiving. What a shame that amid the constant cries of "we can't afford healthy food" we ignore this downright delicious flower.
Is tragedy too strong a word? Eating daylilies can help prevent blindness and malnutrition (see below).
Before you judge, please go out at dusk and pick a daylily that has bloomed itself silly all day long. Break off the utterly fresh, vividly colored flower where it connects to the stalk, making sure to include the rounded bulb at the flower's base. Now eat it slowly. The petals yield like supremely tender, velvety lettuce. The flamboyant stamens and pistils crunch. The bulb at the base snaps before releasing its sweet nectar.
Daylilies are very easy to grow at home using organic techniques. You don't need to spray, fertilize, or even water them. They come in shapes and colors for every style, from frilly to streamlined. They're my favorite stealth vegetable: the strictest home-owners association will smile on your swath of daylilies even as they demand that you up root more obvious edibles.
Daylilies are nutritious
Daylilies provide nutrition as well as pleasure. Daylily buds have more protein and vitamin C than green beans or asparagus and as much vitamin A as asparagus. The orange color of the wild daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) comes in part from two cartenoids that are particularly good for your eyes. Zeaxanthin and lutein may reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Use caution when eating daylilies
Rinse fresh flowers gently, keeping an eye out for ants hidden deep in the bloom.
Eat just one flower the first time to see how you react. Some people are allergic to daylilies and others respond to their medicinal qualities at lower doses (the flowers are used as a diuretic and laxative). The whole plant is edible, but large quantities of young shoots may be toxic. Of course, don't eat plants that might have been sprayed by road crews or other gardeners.
- Eat the flowers raw as a snack or in a salad
- Chop daylily flowers and sauté or stirfry. See my recipe for Daylily Summer-Squash Skillet.
- Go Asian with these recipes from other sites:
Golden Needle Vegetable
In Hong Kong, dried daylily flowers are called golden needle vegetable and in mainland China they are called golden flower vegetable. I hope we here in the States will learn to enjoy this exquisite and beautiful food along with the health it brings.