Along the Grapevine

Eat Shoots and Score Part 2



Last year at this time I experimented for the first time with lily shoots from the hemerocallis fulva, otherwise known as a ditch lily. These shoots, if picked in the spring when they are no more than 5 inches high, are similar to leeks but sweeter. I approached them with caution because they can cause digestive problems in a small percentage of the population, but having tried them and found them to be more than agreeable, I picked a lot more this year with impunity. See my original recipe here.


At the same time last year, I also discovered that sturdy leafy plants are ideal for fermenting, resulting in a delicious, sometimes spicy pickle which are a welcome addition to just about any sandwich or snack. So why not increase my stash of ferments with these lilies which are in endless supply – at least for a few weeks each spring.

First – some words of caution.

  • Be sure you are picking the above-mentioned lily and not some other day lily, which look very similar. Some of these are edible, but some are toxic.
  • Pick them when they are 5 in. or smaller. After that they get too fibrous.
  • Try a little to make sure they do not disagree with you.

Like leeks, they need a good washing to remove any dirt after they have been separated from the tubers. Don’t worry if they break apart.


For the ferment, I used 2 tsp of pickling salt for every four cups of chlorine free water. I also added some garlic and slices of chili peppers to give them a little kick and threw in a few of the larger white tubers scraped clean. Pack the leaves tightly into a jar with whatever spices you choose and pour the brine over them. Weigh them down so that none of the leaves are above the liquid. To do this, I covered them with cheesecloth and placed enough marbles on top to hold them down. A stone or other heavy object which fits well in the jar is recommended. After five days, taste a sample to see if they are ready. There should be a good vinegar-like flavour, but if it is not there yet leave them a few more days until they are to your liking. Cover the jars and store in a cool place.


Remember, fermenting will still happen, so the flavour will get stronger and you should open the jars once in a while so the pressure doesn’t build up. You will  have some of the tastiest pickles for your burgers, sandwiches or salads for as long as they last or up to 6 months at least (my conservative estimate based on my other ferments).


Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

8 thoughts on “Eat Shoots and Score Part 2

  1. You’re a marvel Hilda. So ingenious. And I bet you’ve got a rollicking good wild leek spot too!


    • Thanks. I do have a spot where I can pick loads of ramps at a friend’s place, but last year transplanted a small clump and I am delighted they have taken, so eventually I should have my own plantation.


  2. This is so intriguing!!!! I would have love to try the ferment, but I am unknowledgeable about the plant that I am even too scare to try. Nevertheless, this is such a wonderful post, Hilda 🙂


  3. I was actually on a conference call yesterday with a co-worker when I got the notification about your new post, and she was talking about how she spent the weekend dividing her day lilies and gave them away on Craigslist – which is great – but I told her she should have saved some to eat, too!


    • Depends which kind. The only one I know for sure is edible is the one I wrote about. Others are too, but some are not, so it is a bit tricky to find out which one you have. Must check Craigslist – sounds like a deal.


  4. This is really amazing. What an education you’ve given me. I’m still obsessing about the spruce tips. I know almost nothing about this, but would they be edible if you didn’t pickle them? Would these be too? I’m loving these foraging posts.


    • Yes, Amanda. They are edible, although I suggest trying a small amount first to make sure you are not one of the minority with whom it disagrees. Last year I posted a recipe on just sauteeing them. I recently made a vichyssoise using them in place of leeks. They are not around for long, so I tried to make good use of them in the short time I had. Pickling of course is just a good way of preserving, but freezing is another.


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