By Randy Hobson
As teenagers, a friend of mine and I embarked on a planned weeklong survival hike in the Tennessee Valley Authority preserve known as Land Between the Lakes. Loaded down with heavy equipment, we quickly determined our best chance at “survival” was to remain at the first campground we reached and scout for food.
Things looked up when I spotted the orange blooms of daylilies at an abandoned farm. I knew food was at hand!
Daylilies, genus Hemerocallis, are a wonderfully diverse group of plants best known for their individual flowers (located on stalks called scapes) which bloom for only one day. In fact, the name Hemerocallis comes from the Greek words (hemera) “day” and Kalos “beautiful.”
Daylilies are native to Eurasia, including China, Japan and Korea. Worldwide there are thousands of registered cultivars. In some parts of the United States, daylilies are even considered invasive. I have not seen that to be an issue in Florida. Daylilies are a recommended plant selection in the University of Florida’s, The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide. Daylilies grow best in full sun.
Daylilies are a veritable plant supermarket with a wide selection of edible parts. Fresh flowers are delicious. Generally, the ovary (seed) end of the flower is removed before eating or cooking. The fresh flowers have a crisp texture and slightly spicy taste. The unopened flower buds can be eaten fresh or boiled and seasoned. The young leaves and stalks maybe cooked and eaten. The dried, day-old flowers are traditionally used in Asia to thicken and flavor soup.
When I recognized the daylilies on the Land Between the Lakes “survival” trip, my first thoughts were not of the flowers or buds. They were for the delicious tuber-like structures located on rhizomes in the soil under the plant. Washed and cleaned, these have a crunchy texture and appealing flavor.
Daylilies exemplify the goal of combining beauty and edibility in the landscape. An Internet search will provide a wealth of information, including recipes and tips for growing daylilies.
In my August Edible Landscaping notes, I’d like to start with my appreciation for readers comments. One reader, Bob, mentioned the importance of distinguishing between elderberries and poke berries (which are poisonous). One key difference is the shape of the seed clusters. Elderberries are arranged in flat umbels with berries the size of BBS. Pokeberries are typically larger and arranged in longer seed strands.
This month I’ve been enjoying large bronze muscadine grapes from my “Triumph” grapevine. Another great experience this month was harvesting fruit for the first time from my container grown Barbados Cherry. These juicy fruits develop amazingly fast from flower to “time to eat.” The tart and pleasing taste is one indication of their high vitamin C content.
Finally, this month I’m reading Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping. Beautifully illustrated with details of the historical roots of edible landscaping, this remarkable book is full of practical ideas with an emphasis on design. Happy landscaping and happy eating!
Randy Hobson, a licensed landscaper and plant enthusiast, can be reached at (352) 613-0542.