Wildcrafting & Foraging

Foraging for Daylilies

These pretty pink daylilies are edible too!

Eating Tiger Lilies or Daylilies

Tiger lilies are a wild variety of daylily (Hemerocallis) that often grows in naturalized clumps along ditches and roadsides. They are easy to spot and identify and may even grow in your own yard. I like to make salads with young day lily shoots in spring. The flavor of day lily shoots and flowers is mild and slightly sweet, very nice in a salad or stir fry. Some people experience mild stomach issues after eating daylily shoots so try a small amount the first time and eat a bit more the next time.

Tiger Lilies are invasive but beautiful.

If you are bumming out because you don’t have Tiger Lilies, but instead you have named varieties of daylilies growing in your flower garden, never fear! Any day lily can be used just like Tiger Lilies. I’ve found that the flavor is slightly different from some of the named varieties, and my favorite is Stella D’Oro, a small, yellow variety with a long bloom period and a nice sunny flavor. You may also forage for wild tiger lilies along country roadsides!

Not Asiatic Lilies!

One mistake you must avoid is confusing daylilies with Asiatic Lilies, which aren’t edible. Here is a photo of an Asiatic Lily so you can compare the two…

Asiatic Lilies … notice how the leaves grow all along the stems.

Although the flowers of Asiatic lilies look very similar to daylilies, the leaves are born along the stem, whereas day lily leaves grow from a basal rosette, like this…

Daylily leaves grow from the base of the plant. Asiatic lily leaves grow along the stem.

Before you begin nibbling on lily flowers, make sure you have the correct species.

Note: Although I found one source that lists Asiatic Lilies as edible, I would not take the risk, unless I found more sources that list them as edible. They might not be poisonous, but just taste bad. I haven’t tested to make sure!

Daylily buds are great in stir fries and salads.

How To Prepare Day Lilies

Pick the daylilies, shoots, or buds just before you prepare them. They don’t keep well in the refrigerator. Wash thoroughly and remove stamens and pistils from open flowers. As I already mentioned, I like the young shoots in salads and stir-fries. The flower buds and petals also taste great added to a salad.

Fresh salad with kale and day lilies from my garden.

The buds are delicious in stir fry dishes along with other veggies or preserved as brine-cured pickles. Day lily flowers are great for stuffing with soft cheese and herbs as a side dish. Although I have never tried this, I’ve also read that you can stuff the flowers with meats, cheeses, or bread and herb stuffing and then deep fry them. I’m not really into deep-frying my foods and losing all of the vitamins and fresh flavor. One of my favorite things about eating daylilies (besides the mild, sweet flavor) is knowing that I can forage for free food if I need to!

Do you eat daylilies? What is your favorite way to prepare them?

Disclaimer: Please use a reliable plant identification guide if you aren’t absolutely sure about plant species. I don’t want you to get sick!

14 Comments on “Foraging for Daylilies

  1. So I’m pretty sure mine are day lilies because they don’t have spots, but theyre 3 feet tall and I thought only the bad Tiger Lily got that tall? The leaves come up from the bottom in A rosette, Still not sure which one I have. Also I have a bug or something that gets into my flowerbuds every year and lives in them so you might wanna mention that to people who are eating a buds without opening them…. ick, I only the flower petals now LOL

    1. Hi Deb,
      It sounds like a daylily if the leaves grow from a rosette at the base. If you can do a search online and compare the photos from a reliable website, I would suggest doing that.
      I’ve never found bugs in my buds! Now I will have to look for those. Thanks for the warning!

  2. I am thinking that what you call a Tiger lily is not the same as what I call a Tiger lily. Day lily, yes, but not Tiger lily. The ones that I was always told were tiger lilies have black dots on the petals. Oh well, maybe, maybe not. 🙂

    1. That’s the problem with common names…I think you are describing an Asiatic lily, very different. That’s why I made sure to make the distinction between Asiatic and Day Lilies (Hemerocallis). Always double check if you are eating them!

    2. Yes, me too. They [were/are] a darkish red orange with black spots. Are you from Maine? That is where I learned that they were Tiger Lilies — from my mother. And they appeared to be a “day lily”.

      1. Hi Alice,
        I’m from New York originally and I live in Illinois now. Most of the lilies that I have seen with dark spots on the petals are actually Asiatic lilies…not edible! And I believe that on visits to the Boston area, I remember hearing people refer to the orange Asiatic lilies as Tiger Lilies…so check to see if the leaves are growing along the stems (Asiatic lily) or if they are growing from the ground in a ‘basal rosette’ (day lily). Best wishes, and make sure before you sample!

      2. Would if I could FIND any. Have only seen them in my home state of Maine—none in New Hampshire that I can find. And, at one time, I bought some “Tiger Lillies” mail away…they looked nothing like the ones back home; and yes, they were Asiatic lillies.

      3. Wow, they grow like crazy around here…in the ditches and old farmsteads. Actually, you can eat the flowers of any daylily (hemerocallis) so if you order any you can use those. Just make sure that you are ordering Hemerocallis!

      4. Hi again, sorry for any confusion. I have a YARD full of daylillies. Orange, russet, and yellow. I was talking about the pretty red with black or dark brown speckles that my mother called Tiger Lilies.
        I BELIEVE they were daylilies, but haven’t seen any (of that particular variety) since I left Maine…so, maybe not!

  3. Oh my goodness! I have bunches of these. They do multiply rapidly. It is so good to know they are edible though. Thank you Lisa. I am both surprised and delighted.

  4. Very interesting – I didn’t know you could eat these! I’m not really into deep frying either, but I would love to taste one stuffed with cheese or something like that. They look really pretty in your salad. Thanks for the information and inspiration!

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