WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY
Daylilies are highly versatile, easy to identify, tasty treats. They thrive not just on the ‘wilder side’ of Oakland County but in urban fields and along rural roadsides. It would be difficult to go for a drive or hike in Oakland County without encountering the common daylily: a not-so-wild wildflower that in these early days of July adds brilliant splashes of orange contrast to a summery landscape that’s rich with shades of green.
Daylilies are not true lilies. They belong to the genus Hemerocallis, a Greek word which roughly translates to “beautiful for a day.” They are native to Asia and arrived in our landscape with early European settlers. They have naturalized with ease and continue to escape from both old homesteads and ornamental plantings. They have migrated over time and transformed themselves into roadside beauties, alien invaders that also deserve culinary love.
Although the stalks have numerous flower buds, each flower bud opens only for a day. That gives foragers most of July to sample fresh treats. Newly opened petals in the early morning dew are crisp, slightly sweet and succulent. I eat them raw and have friends that gather them for colorful additions to fresh salads. Wilted flowers can be added to soups and the unopened buds can be cooked like string beans or fried like fritters. “What’s for dinner?” is a question that brings a smile when I am hiking on a wildland trail and the answer is, “boiled daylily buds.” They can also be stir-fried, simmered in soups or chopped up and added to a vegetarian omelet or stew.
Daylily Tubers are a real delight and can be prepared almost any way a potato can be prepared. Just dig them up, wash them off and they can be boiled, steamed or sliced thin and fried in olive oil. Creativity is the way to go with these starch-rich tubers that look like fingerling potatoes. The results can be delicious!
July, however, is not the time to collect the young shoots, for they are no longer young. At this time, they are already several feet high and fibrous. Young shoots are best consumed when less than four inches tall, but for a novice forager, identification without the flowers can be difficult. Shoots can be prepared like asparagus or added to soups and stews.
July is the perfect time to eat your way down a trail, through a meadow or down rural roadside. The daylilies are waiting. Enjoy!
CAUTION: Never eat any wild plant that you cannot identify. Never gather from a site that is immediately adjacent to roadsides to avoid exposure to chemicals and runoffs.
Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks. Schechterj@oakgov.com
Visit DestinationOakland.com for information on all 13 Oakland County Parks.