© 2024
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Daylilies: Resilient, ornamental and edible

During the summer, a bright orange flower weaves through your daily commute. Daylilies pop up along roadsides and bike paths, cemeteries and soccer fields, even in the cracks between pavement. Long admired for their beauty, these prolific invasives are also edible. In this episode of The Local Food Report, horticulturist Laura Swain demonstrates how to turn daylily flowers into a potluck showstopper.

WARNING: Daylilies (hemerocallis fulva) are edible, but true lilies can make you ill. Please find information about how to identify daylilies at the bottom of the page.

Native to China, Korea, and Japan, daylilies were brought to the U.S. as ornamentals in the 1600s, but they soon escaped flower gardens. Now, they grow wild from Southern Florida to Northern Canada. Having perfected the art of surviving in “hell strips” --places where not much else will grow--daylilies make an excellent snack for foragers. They thrive in different soil types, on high and low elevations alike, and are nearly immune to pests and disease. Although they are not a harmful invasive species, by eating them, you leave more room for native species to grow.

Daylilies are a largely untapped food source in North America, but they’ve been consumed in East Asia for centuries, where you can buy them at markets and taste them in many dishes, including Daylily Soup and Hot and Sour Soup. The flowers, buds, and tubers are all edible, and contain antioxidant properties, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A.

Horticulturist Laura Swain improvised the following recipe.


This recipe is flexible and takes no more than 15 minutes. You can use whichever fresh or dried herbs appeal to you, and as much goat cheese and olive oil as you see fit.


  • 12-20 daylily flowers (aka hemerocallis fulva flowers. Not to be confused with real lilies, which can make you ill). Daylily flowers pop up around June and bloom for 1-2 months. If you have a sweet tooth, leave a little extra stem.
  • 8 ounces of chevre goat cheese. (Let it soften outside of the fridge for 10 minutes).
  • 3 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chives, chopped
  • 1.5 tablespoons of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of oregano, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh bee balm (aka bergamot), chopped  


1.     Make this appetizer right before you serve it, or up to 5 hours ahead of time. If preparing ahead of time, stick them in the fridge before serving.

2.     Remove the daylily stamen and pistols (the stringy bits inside the flower that hold the pollen). Gather them mid-way down between your thumb and forefinger and pull lightly. You will hear a satisfying crunch. Set them aside and dice for garnish.

3.     Add goat cheese and herbs to a large mixing bowl and slowly mix in olive oil, little by little, until you get a creamy consistency.

4.     Using a spoon or a piping bag, add a mouthful (0.5-1 tablespoons) of the cheese mixture to the center of each daylily flower.

5.     Garnish with herbs and stamen. 

Other Daylily Recipes:

WARNING: Daylilies (hemerocallis fulva) are edible, but true lilies are not edible, and can make you ill. The common name “daylily” is a misnomer--daylilies are more closely related to asparagus than true lilies. Some true lily flowers can look like daylily flowers, so you must identify their foliage.

Daylilies (hemerocallis fulva) have thin, leafless stalks that shoot up out of long, strappy foliage-- (similar to daffodil foliage).

True lilies belong to the lilium genus. Their leaves follow the plant all the way up the stalk.

If in doubt, do not eat the plant. And even if you know you have a daylily, try one petal first, and see how it sits with you. This is a general rule of thumb for foraging, because you may have your own individual reaction to a plant which you haven’t eaten before. To avoid polluted plants, do not pick flowers next to major highways or from lawns containing pesticides.

This piece first aired in August 2018.