Monday, June 20, 2011

Edible day lilies

Yes, that is going to be a continuing theme around here: Eating previously ignored plants. The more I see the more ideas I get.

I am still not really comfortable describing this interest as "foraging" - I dislike labels -  but grammatically it sits well: It implies a search, a curious mind; though most of what I find I stumble upon. The sweet scent in the apartment right now comes from a bowlful of beautiful milkweed flowers that I picked in Red Hook this afternoon while heading home from the Pier 44 garden. Tomorrow morning they will be breakfast. I think. I may make simple syrup instead. What do you think? Hey, maybe I can do both, as they must be blanched, first, anyway. Imagine that! A milkweed-blossom-infused summer cocktail. Now we're cooking with gas! [See the results here]

Still, "foraging" separates the gathering and gatherers of wild and wayside foods from the shoppers for plants in groceries and farmers' markets, though the latter are steps nearer the truth of where our food comes from. We are all still eating the stems, roots, tubers, leaves, and fruit of plants. Those firm green broccoli heads are just thousands of unrealized, thwarted flowers. But the gatherer of wild foods separates them on the spot, as the plant grows, wherever that may be. Nipping the buds from the stem, snipping the fat spring stalk as it emerges, clipping the leaves from the branch - and brings them home to eat. Supper is always a surprise.

I must add that none of the day lilies you see above were harmed for the writing of this post. The buds in the salads came from Elsewhere. Nuff said. I wouldn't pick anyone's garden flowers. But please pick your own, because they are worth it.

These were quite mature buds, as you see, in full colour aleady. I sliced them lengthways and added them to a salad of Boston lettuce (butter lettuce to some), new peas, fennel and thinly sliced radish that I had wilted in salt, first. Light sherry vinegar vinaigrette. The buds are softly tender and have a distinct flavour that I cannot describe well. Young courgette (zucchini), a bit of cooked bean, something else, slightly, ever so slightly sweet. I have no idea why they are not sold by the score in supermarket clamshells and farmers' market boxes across the country. They are easy to grow and taste wonderful.

In salad No 2. I ditched the radish, but otherwise it was the same. The pea and day lily combination works especially well.

Speaking of day lilies, remember this garden?

The red roses that had been hacked to the ground, the climbing roses I said would never bloom again as a result?

As far as I can tell, these are same rose! Are they? What the bleep?! My world has been turned upside down. So, instead of leaving a perplexed note, I shall leave another one: "Eat your day lilies...and...about the roses?"

Other New York adventures with wild food:

Central Park - Japanese knotweed
Dead Horse Bay - Pokeweed
Inwood Park - Field Garlic
Prospect Park - Oyster Mushrooms
The terrace - Pigweed


  1. are the mini squash yours from the roof farm?

    re: simple syrup infused for a cocktail, i have a quandry. i soaked some rhubarb w/cardamom in simple syrup, and drained off this yummy concoction that i do not know how to match with liquor.

    what would you do with that? (WWMD?) rhubarb cosmos? i cant' think of anything else.

  2. donna - mini squash? I don't see 'em!

    Hm - cardamom and rhubard sounds interesting. Tricky - cardamom is so specific and associated with some teetotaling cuisines! North African, India. How about making an iced-tea based cocktail. Tall, with ice. You get the sharpness of the rhubarb, the sweetness, the spice, the tea, and then what liquor? What about Pimms? Some mint. That would work for me. I think!

  3. My Lady Hillingdon climber froze back completely this year and is blooming on all new canes. My Cecile Bruner has done, too, but nothing slows down that variety.

  4. Beautiful flowers! And the salad looks great! Most roses (I think) will bloom at new canes. We usually cut them each spring, and then in summer they bloom. If you train(tie up) the rose canes as horisontal as you can, you will have flowers over the whole cane. It flowers in the top, and when the cane is trained horisontal, there will come new canes from all the leaf corners, meaning you get more tops;-))

  5. beautiful salad Marie but why don't I believe you when you say that pictured lilies were not harmed for the making of this post? where then, young lady did they come from, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm???

    must eat them.
    also, my second round of roses are coming finally.

  6. Lovely, lovely, lovely! I am enchanted by the photos of the daylily and pea salad. And I always enjoy your blog!

  7. Thanks Mailblomst - yes, I love the trick of pinning long canes in a bow-shape so that more buds form. With climbers/ramblers, I now realize that it is only the ones that bloom once, and once alone, that must not be pruned in early spring. I did not know that. I thought it was all climbers. Which is embarrassing to say the least. If the climber repeats, and some do, it may be pruned in spring. Tricky.

    Bonbon, I swear, I did not. It is possible that Vince had to restrain me in one instance...

    Thank you, Marianne!


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