Along the Grapevine


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Eat Shoots and Score Part 2

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).


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Lily Buds

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Earlier in the year, I started experimenting with the prolific wild day lily (hemerocallis fulva), using at that time the tubers and the shoots which I described in this post. Now they are in full flower, but before I use the-full blown flowers, I decided to prepare something with the unopened blossoms. Coincidentally I received a post today on this very plant from Edible Wild Food – a site I often use to help me identify unfamiliar weeds and such – which gives a good description of what is called around here the ‘ditch lily’. If you’re not sure what this plant is or want to learn more about it, I recommend this post. If you have any gardening questions of the wild kind, this is a great source.

My recipe is not really a recipe – just an illustration that these pods can be eaten and are very tasty. The last few days I have been cooking, but not so much my own recipes as several of the super dishes presented at last week’s Fiesta Friday #24, so all I have to bring this week to Fiesta Friday #25 is this simple but delicious dish of vegetables with lily buds. I will be co-hosting again this week, this time with my fellow-Canadian Chef Julianna from Foodie on Board.

It should be noted that some people (some sources say 2%, others 5%) suffer digestive upsets from this plant, so go easy at first if you haven’t tried them before just to be on the safe side as with any new food.

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To prepare them as a side dish, I lightly fried some green beans in a mixture of olive oil and butter, added chopped garlic, herbs (in this case fresh tarragon) and seasoning. Then I added the lily buds and fried just a minute or two longer until they looked slightly toasted.

The flavour is sweet, a little fruity and not at all bitter or sour. If you haven’t tried cooking with wild flowers before, hemerocallis fulva is a great one to start with.

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And to all the guests at this week’s fiesta, a big welcome. I look forward to seeing what treats are in store for us this time. If you would like to join in the fun, check out how and where here.