Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

A Lily a Day ; Daylillies Don't Just Look Great, They Taste It, Too

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

A Lily a Day ; Daylillies Don't Just Look Great, They Taste It, Too

Article excerpt

Banks of pretty orange daylilies along the road, or a display of cultivated varieties in a colorful garden, don't say "salad," but maybe they should. Marcia Razor of Wadesville, Ind., a member of the Southwestern Indiana Daylily Society, recently invited me to her garden to appreciate her amazing collection of daylilies, and to munch a few petals.

I've often enjoyed a quick saute of fresh daylily buds in the summer months, and dried lily buds are a staple in Chinese cooking - you're guaranteed to have eaten them in hot and sour soup. The petals make a lovely garnish, but eating them straight up with a dip, or in a salad? Not something I'd really considered.

Daylily aficionados usually enjoy the flowers for viewing rather than eating, Razor admitted. "But I use them for garnish and in salads," she added.

"My mother-in-law really got me into daylilies," she said. "She was from Kansas, and was a gardener who did a little hybridizing. She worked with irises and daylilies. A lot of my plants in my garden are from her. Daylilies so easy to grow under most conditions. You can't say they're maintenance-free but they're low maintenance."

After sampling some petals, we decided that inclusion in your next meal was at least as noble a use for daylilies as simply looking at them. Many of the cultivars even sport fun culinary names, such as Mama's Cherry Pie, a pink and red confection, and Jambalaya, of a fiery orange hue.

Since each flower really only lasts one day on the plant, any you pick will be replaced the next day, and the more you use for lunch, the fewer you'll have to deadhead.

While the flowers are short-lived, during their one day they are indestructible. Unlike most flowers, the petals are thick and stay fresh without water. Razor keeps whole flowers lying on the counter and around the kitchen for color, and suggested floating them in a punch bowl for real elegance. Try to pick the flowers early in the day and use for lunch or an early dinner; the longer the evening goes on, the flowers grow limp as their normal cycle draws to an end.

The taste and texture of daylily petals are what you would expect if you took a very tender butter lettuce and soaked it in sugar water until some sweetness was drawn inside the leaves.

Different varieties had subtle differences in taste. Most were simple, mild and sweet. Some had a slight spice, as of watercress or nasturtium, while others had a bit of a floral aroma that came through in the flavor. And the array of colors to choose from is staggering - peaches, pale yellows to rich golds to startling oranges; shell pink to coral to flaming scarlet; lavender; bright purple; burgundy; and crimson so dark it approaches black. Colors include bright chartreuse and neon magenta. Petals can be long and slim, have two or more colors, be flat, pointed, rounded or ruffled.

No wonder there are daylily clubs all over the country. …

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