Drive along a country lane in the north east at any time in late spring or early summer and chances are you will see them paralleling the thoroughfare, stretching into the roadway for that extra nurturing sunbeam. They are Tiger lilies, or Hemerocallis fulva to the botanical purists among us. Called by any name these plants with their bright green sword blade shaped leaves and slender wand like stems crowned with the warm orange flames that are the plants distinctive blossoms are unmistakable. Often taken for granted they are one of those uncountable treasures that make a day in June so rare.
The tiger lily is originally native to most of northeast Asia and Japan, but has become well acclimated to much of the United States and Canada where it is grown deliberately and often grows wild as well. Also known as Lilium tigrinum, Columbia lily and Ditch lily the Tiger lily prefers well moistened soil bordering woodlands, or in meadows and clearings. It also loves roadside ditches which accounts for one of its names. It transplants and propagates easily from bulbs, and also from rhizomes.
Not just another pretty face:
But our Tiger or Ditch lily is more than a mere visual treat. Portions of the plant are edible and delightfully so. The buds of the tiger lily which can grow to be as long as four inches can be snipped from their stems when they are just ready to burst into flowers. Lightly steamed or boiled and topped with butter and salt or perhaps lemon juice they serve as a tasty vegetable side.
Fried in a little olive oil either alone or as a component of stir fried veggies the buds bring a touch of the exotic to the dinner table. Steam or fry the buds separately and add them to brown, wild or yellow rice and you have created a unique and tasty side dish.
The flowers are delicious dipped in a batter and fried. For a unique omelet wisk as many eggs as desired and stir in lavish amounts of the fresh flowers.
Just scratching the surface:
The tastiest part of the lily may lie just below the surface. Growing on the roots are nodules about the size and shape of a thumb. Remove these, scrub them clean with a toothbrush or other small brush and boil until tender. The flavor, somewhat like a nut and at the same time a bit like a potato must be experienced to understand the unique goodness.
One small caveat:
When cooking with Tiger lilies be certain that the pets do not get any of the leftovers. Cats in particular are sickened by all sections of the lily, and many die from the consequences which include acute renal failure.
With that one small caution always in mind, prepare to enjoy the delightful Tiger lily as much on the plate as in the vase.