This time of year is filled with spring buds, sprouting tree leaves and the reemergence of bountiful wild edibles. One of my favorites that isn’t necessarily “wild” is Daylily greens. I tend to include them in the wild edibles category simply because once they’re planted, they take care of themselves and produce, produce, produce. Daylily is an easy one to put into the favorites category because it provides an edible part during just about every season. You can eat the newly sprouted greens, cutting them back to ground level several times without hurting them, and then later in the summer enjoy the flowers in cold salads or dipped in batter and fried into a “fritter”. If eating them raw, I find that the yellow ones are sweeter, with more of a honey-like flavor, than the orange ones. Both are good though. You can also chop up the day-old wilted flowers and use them in soups where the wilt no longer matters. The flowers, wilted or not, are extremely high in beta-carotene.
Make sure you’ve correctly identified your plant because there are some semi look-a-likes that are not edible and will make you very, very sick. A few that can be mistaken for Daylily when all you have to go by is greenery include Daffodil, Tulip and Iris and Easter Lily. The best policy is to observe (i.e. get to know) them for an entire season so that you’re certain you have Daylilies. They should have 6 yellow-orange petals that open for only 1 day. The root will be tuber-like and almost resemble a miniature oblong potato. Daffodil and Tulip, who have similar greenery, will have bulbs instead of tubers. Another greenery that is sometimes mistaken for Daylily is the Iris, but Daylily leaves won’t be flat like an Iris and Daylily won’t have the lateral rhizomes that grow just under the ground surface like Iris. Daylily leaves will have a distinct “V” shape at their base that slowly opens up as the leaves grow longer. Also, edible Daylilies will always face upward as opposed to the un-edible Lily that faces downward, such as the Easter Lily. Aside from the downward facing flower, these two blooms look the same but the foliage is very different. Even after you’ve checked all these things off your list and are sure you have a Daylily, there are some foragers that say you shouldn’t eat Daylilies that aren’t the traditional orange-yellow and others that say a spotted, variegated or completely red variety are totally OK as long as they’re upward facing. I can’t offer any wisdom on that because the only ones I’ve ever had access to are the plain old orange-yellow. If I ever eat a red or spotted one and live to tell about it, I’ll share the experience. I know this all sounds really complicated, but it’s really not that hard once you take a good look at what you’ve got.
So, as you can see, yesterday we enjoyed our first meal of the year of the newly emerging greens. The greens are super tasty and high in Vitamin C, another useful benefit this time of year that is just in time for springtime colds. Mother Nature provides what we need, when we need it, if we just pay attention!
There are tons of ways to prepare Daylily greens, but my favorite is to simply sauté them with garlic and onion because it goes with anything. I start by slightly caramelizing one medium size onion in a couple of tablespoons of butter. Once the onion is translucent and starting to brown, add 2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook just enough to start to smell it, literally about 30 seconds or so. You can use more or less garlic according to your taste, but we like lots of it, and it’s good for you! Quickly add your Daylily greens, chopped into 1″ pieces, reduce the heat and stir.
After about a minute of sautéing, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let the whole thing steam to finish cooking the greens.
We like to eat eggs with our greens for supper because that way, everything is from right here on our farm and is sustainable; garlic and onions that we grow from saved cloves, bulbs and seeds, butter that we made, Daylily greens that grow abundantly at our backdoor and eggs from our free ranging chickens. Everyone has things that push their buttons and one of ours is being able to have a savory supper from only what we grow and raise, that can be sustained from year to year without depending on anyone else.