Saturday, April 12, 2014

Edible weeds - fugitive cuisine

It is prime day lily time - the "wild," orange-flowered kind. I know these have orange flowers, because I have seen this patch in bloom, before. Hemerocallis fulva. This weekend will be spent cleaning and prepping them.

I will save them for our personal consumption. There are stories of some people being sensitive to day lilies, and so I don't like to feed them to others who have never tasted them, before.

The best practise is to sample a few (one or two), wait a day, and then make some decisions based on the outcome. I like them, and have experienced no ill effects. Then again, I don't stuff myself. I find the cooked tuber to be a little like a cross between a Jerusalem artichoke and a potato. Raw, similar to the raw Jerusalem artichoke (which, interestingly, also gives some people gastric problems).

Day lilies are garden escapees, and originally from Asia. In dense colonies, like the one I found myself visiting recently, no other plant stands a chance. Even the field garlic (Allium vineale) another invasive plant, (southern Europe, Mediterranean) had been squeezed out.

Native spring ephemerals - Cucullaria dicentra, or Dutchman's breeches, below. Their flowers will be open in a few days. They are ill-equipped to withstand the assault of the mad, bad day lilies and field garlic. Another Cucullaria species C. canadensis, called squirrel corn, is occasionally referenced as edible (they grow from corms...or bulbs?). I'd be curious to hear if anyone reading this has tried it, or knows of its being eaten. And no, for the record, I avoid wildflowers altogether when foraging, but I am curious.

Ta-raa! I curse myself when collecting field garlic. It will mean a lot of work, back home, if one hurries, in the field. Much cleaning, sorting, peeling of outer skins, and discarding of tiny bulblets. Better to be very selective on site. The results are worth it, a hundredfold. These are destined to be: field garlic butter, field garlic oil and pickled field garlic. To come? Confit of field garlic (bottled), and plenty of fresh field garlic for a tart I have in mind...

Japanese knotweed. Curse of governments, home owners, gardeners, farmers, developers, railway companies and airports. Have I left anyone out? Polygonum cuspidatum. It is a crime to plant it in England. So why don't we get environmental credits when we lop off the wonderfully lemony shoots, at ground height?

Questions, questions.

It will be at least a week before the knotweed is ready to collect. The shoot above was a freak amongst its brethren, which mostly look like this (the red tips in the middle and lower left - see the old, dead canes lying about):

Who will win? The invasive Japanese knotweed or the indigenous Erythronium americanum (USA! USA!),  aka trout lily - another spring ephemeral.

I'll be watching this spot.


  1. What John said! They are so pretty!

  2. I am wondering do you eat broadleaf plantain? Our non-chemical lawn is full of them and they are supposed to be edible


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